Russia sees little optimism in US response to Ukraine crisis | News

MOSCOW — The Kremlin said on Thursday there was “little cause for optimism” in resolving the Ukraine crisis after the United States rejected Russia’s main demandsbut this dialogue was still possible.

Tensions have skyrocketed in recent weeks, as the United States and its NATO allies have expressed concern that a buildup of around 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine signals that Moscow is planning to invade. its ex-Soviet neighbour. Russia denies having such designs – and has made a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe.

But as expected, the United States and the Western alliance on Wednesday firmly rejected any concessions on key points from Moscow, refusing to permanently ban Ukraine from joining NATO and saying that allied deployments of troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe is not negotiable.

The United States highlighted areas where some of Russia’s concerns could be addressed, possibly offering a path to de-escalation. But, as it has repeatedly in recent weeks, Washington has also warned Moscow of devastating sanctions if it invades Ukraine. Along with sanctions targeting the Russian people and key economic sectors, several senior US officials said with certainty on Thursday that Germany would not allow a newly constructed gas pipeline to begin operations in the event of an incursion.

All eyes are now on President Vladimir Putin, who will decide Russia’s reaction to fears that Europe is once again plunged into war.

In the meantime, US President Joe Biden spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodmyr Zelenskyy on Thursday to reiterate US and allied support, including recent US military aid deliveries.

“Had a long phone conversation with POTUS,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “Discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions for the future. Thanked President Joe Biden for ongoing military assistance. Possibilities for financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.

The White House said in a statement that Biden told Zelenskyy he was “exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine’s economy” as it came under pressure from Russia’s military buildup.

Meanwhile, the United States announced that the UN Security Council would hold a public meeting on Monday on what US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield described as “threatening behavior” by Russia. She said the deployment of more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and other acts of destabilization constituted “a clear threat to international peace and security and the Charter of the United Nations”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier that the US response – and a similar response from NATO – left “little room for optimism”. But he added that “there are always prospects for continuing a dialogue, it is in our interest and in that of the Americans”.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was wary when asked if the Biden administration sees a glimmer of hope in the fact the Russians have said they will keep communications open even though they said they lacked optimism.

“We don’t know if the Russians are playing games on diplomacy. We hope not,” PSAki said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the US response contained some elements that could lead to “the opening of a serious discussion on secondary issues”, but stressed that “the document does not contain any positive response on the issue. main”. These are Moscow’s demands that NATO not expand and that the alliance refrain from deploying weapons that could threaten Russia.

Lavrov said senior officials would submit proposals to Putin. Peskov said the Russian reaction would come soon.

The evasive official comments reflect the fact that Putin alone will determine Russia’s next moves. He warned of unspecified “military-technical measures” if the West refuses to heed the demands.

Peskov added that Putin and Biden will decide whether to have another conversation after two calls last month.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev had seen the US response before it was delivered to Russia and had no objections. He tweeted that it was “important that the United States stay in close contact with Ukraine before and after all contacts with Russia.”

During a visit to Denmark, Kuleba stressed the need for his country to strengthen its defenses.

“This crisis is a moment of truth, and that’s why we talk about weapons,” he said. “That’s why we talk about economic sanctions. That’s why we talk about the consolidated position of all of us, so that President Putin sees that there is no weak link in our defensive chain.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told a parliamentary debate on Ukraine that her government was coordinating policy closely with its allies, considering a range of options that could include Russia’s new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

As diplomacy heats up, so do the maneuvers that have heightened tensions. Russia has launched a series of military exercises involving motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia, combat aircraft in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, dozens of warships in the sea Noire and the Arctic, as well as Russian fighter jets and paratroopers in Belarus.

NATO said it was strengthening its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the United States ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for a possible deployment in Europe.

As war fears mounted, thousands of Ukrainians expressed their determination to resist Russian pressure under the hashtag #UkrainiansWillResist on Twitter and Facebook.

“No one will force Ukrainians to accept the Kremlin’s ultimatum,” wrote Andrii Levus, who launched the campaign.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine organized training on how to behave in emergency situations, with a focus on handling explosives.

Beyond concerns about a possible Russian offensive in Ukraine, there has also been speculation that Moscow’s response could include military deployments in the Western Hemisphere.

While a senior Russian diplomat recently declined to rule out such deployments to Cuba and Venezuela, a senior Putin official expressed skepticism Thursday at the prospect.

“Cuba and Venezuela aim to break out of isolation and restore normal relations with the United States to some extent, so there can be no question of setting up a base there as happened in the Soviet times,” said Dmitry Medvedev, an MP. head of the Russian Security Council, told Russian media.

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Christi C. Elwood