No Agreement on Ukraine Even After Summit, Russians Call for an End to Anti-Russian Hysteria
After meeting his US counterpart Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on the West to end “anti-Russian hysteria” in the Ukraine conflict. The talks between Blinken and Lavrov ended without an agreement, but according to Blinken, “with a better understanding for each other.”
Negotiations were not, Blinken said after the one and a half-hour meeting with his Russian colleague, “it was an exchange of views and ideas.” On the one hand, they deal with the how and what of the approximately 130,000 Russian soldiers who seem ready to attack Ukraine. But, on the other hand, they deal with Ukraine’s possible NATO membership – and the expansion of that alliance to the east.
“Russia threatens no one and does not invade any country,” Lavrov said after the conversation with Blinken. He thus rejected Western fears of an invasion. Instead, Russia expects a written response from the US to its proposals on security guarantees next week, Lavrov said. After that, further talks should occur at the level of foreign ministers before another summit between Presidents Biden and Putin is possible.
But before such a summit, Lavrov wants to see answers to the questions Russia is asking the US. “We can see from that answer whether we are on the right track.” Two key Russian demands are that NATO troops withdraw from Romania and Bulgaria, two NATO member states, and Ukraine never join the military pact. Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has already responded that Bulgaria itself decides what it does. Ukraine will become a member of NATO was already agreed upon in 2008, although an official timeline was never drawn up for this.
Blinken, for his part, asked Lavrov to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. “I have repeated that Russia poses no threat to the Ukrainian people,” Lavrov said. “We have no plans to attack Ukraine.” However, the Russian minister emphasized that Russia is concerned about NATO. “We are concerned about the weapons and military that the West is sending to Ukraine.”
Lavrov refers to the supply of British weapons to Kyiv, while Canada has already sent military specialists, and the United States has donated an additional $200 million in defence resources. This is happening in response to the expansion of the troops near the Ukrainian border, emphasized Blinken.
All we are trying to do is make sure that Ukraine has the means to defend itself as best we can. That might prevent further aggression by Russia,” Blinken said on Thursday before he meets with Lavrov. And after their conversation, he repeated that the choice is Moscow’s: “Diplomacy or war, that’s what Russia decides. And Russia itself takes care of what it supposedly wants to prevent. For example, before it annexed Crimea, only a quarter of Ukrainians wanted to join NATO, now it is 70%.”
America’s response will come immediately if an invasion occurs, Blinken warned the Russians. “We ourselves believe in the path of Diplomacy and want to settle our differences peacefully. But there is no room for manoeuvre when it comes to the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own future.”