Moscow is pessimistic about reaching a deal with the United States on Ukraine, but talks continue

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The Kremlin warned on Thursday that there was “not much reason to be optimistic” that the West would meet Russia’s demands in the clash against Ukraine, but said the president Vladimir V. Putin would take his time to study the written responses that the United States and NATO submitted a day earlier before deciding how to proceed.

“All these papers are with the president,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry S. Peskov, told reporters. “It will of course take some time to analyze them – we will not rush to conclusions.”

The Biden administration on Thursday convened a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday to discuss the crisis, in what could be a rare face-to-face debate on Ukraine between the United States and Russia.

“This is not a time to wait and see,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement. “The Council’s full attention is needed now, and we look forward to a direct and focused discussion on Monday.”

Mr. Peskov did not discuss the content of the US and NATO responses to the Russian requests, which the US has requested be kept confidential. But he said that based on public remarks about them by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, there was little chance the West would offer any concessions on Russia’s central demands.

“There’s not much reason to be optimistic,” Peskov said, responding to a question about whether Russia would be happy with Western responses. “But I would continue to refrain from making concept assessments.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov issued a similar negative note, saying in comments posted on his ministry’s website that the US document contained “no positive reaction” to Russia’s key demands.

The comments by Russian officials came against the backdrop of Russian troop buildups near Ukraine and hours after a shooting at a Ukrainian missile factory overnight served as a reminder of the fragile military situation on the ground. There was no immediate evidence that the shooting was linked to rising military tensions in the area.

As Western fears grew over a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow last month released a list of demands that would involve NATO withdrawing its troops from Eastern Europe and pledging never to authorize Ukraine’s accession. Russia requested a written response, which the United States and NATO submitted on Wednesday.

Lavrov said that while the US response included initiatives that could serve as a “start of a serious conversation”, there was no sign of progress on Russia’s priority to reduce NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. He said consultations between Russian government officials would be followed by a briefing to Mr Putin, who “will decide our next steps”.

Mr Putin, who has been publicly silent on the Ukraine crisis since December, visited a cemetery in St Petersburg on Thursday to mark the 78th anniversary of the end of the Nazi siege of Leningrad, during which the brother of Mr Putin died as a child. State television showed brief footage of Mr Putin, dressed in a black overcoat, placing flowers on a wreath in the snow. Mr. Peskov said the president had not planned any other public events.




Blinken calls US letter to Russia ‘diplomatic way forward’

The United States provided a written response to Russia’s requests in Eastern Europe, which included its concerns about escalating military tensions in the region.

Russia had previously expressed its concerns and proposals in writing. And last week I told Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States would do the same. Today Ambassador Sullivan delivered our written response to Moscow. All in all, it sets out a serious diplomatic path, should Russia choose it. The document we delivered includes the concerns of the United States and our allies and partners regarding Russian actions that undermine security, a principled and pragmatic assessment of the concerns raised by Russia, and our own proposals regarding areas where we could find common ground. We make it clear that there are fundamental principles that we are committed to respecting and defending, including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the right of states to choose their own security arrangements and alliances. We are not making the document public, as we believe that diplomacy has the best chance of succeeding if we provide space for confidential talks. We hope and hope that Russia will share the same view and take our proposal seriously.

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The United States provided a written response to Russia’s requests in Eastern Europe, which included its concerns about escalating military tensions in the region.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski

For now, officials on all sides say there is still a chance for diplomacy to resolve the crisis. President Biden was scheduled to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.

Senior Ukrainian and Russian officials met in person in Paris for eight hours on Wednesday in a session mediated by France and Germany. Mr Zelensky described the talks as a positive development, stressing the importance of respecting the ceasefire in the region of eastern Ukraine known as Donbass, where violence sometimes erupts into conflict long smoldering between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Aleksei Zaytsev, said another meeting scheduled in Berlin in two weeks could identify “solutions to the problems that have been accumulating for seven years”. And he reiterated the insistence of Russian officials that their country had no intention of attacking Ukraine.

“We consider it unacceptable to even think of a war between our peoples,” Zaytsev said, according to the Interfax news agency.

But analysts say it is very likely that Mr Putin’s diplomats do not know exactly what their president is planning. The Kremlin is seeking to rewrite Europe’s post-Cold War order to give Russia a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe – which Mr Putin says is essential to Russia’s long-term security. Russia. Mr Putin has threatened unspecified “military-technical” measures if the West does not accede to Russia’s demands.

Christi C. Elwood