Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergeĭ Viklov in Geneva on Friday as part of an effort to seek diplomacy and avoid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
These were the latest in a series of high-level talks between the two countries in recent weeks to address Russia’s move to gather about 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border.
Towards the talks, they said they didn’t expect a “breakthrough” in the negotiations, and neither side seems to have changed their position.
However, after the 90-minute meeting, Blinken described the exchange as “candid” and “useful.”
“I think Foreign Minister Viklov now has a better understanding of our position, and vice versa,” Blinken said. “Today’s discussion was helpful in that sense, and that’s exactly why we met.”
Russia has denied its intention to invade Ukraine, but has released a list of requests, including agreeing that NATO will never accept Ukraine as a member.
At the meeting, Prime Minister Viklov said Russia was expecting a “concrete answer to a concrete proposal,” adding that “no country can enhance security for other countries.”
Viklov later called the talks “constructive and useful,” and said the United States had agreed to respond in writing to Russia’s request to Ukraine and NATO next week.
The United States argues that Ukraine is unlikely to join NATO in the near future, but the decision to join NATO should only be made between Ukraine and NATO member states.
Blinken says he repeated his attitude towards Viklov at the meeting.
“I have made it clear to Minister Viklov that there are certain issues and basic principles that the United States and our partners and allies have promised to defend,” Blinken said. “This includes things that hinder the Ukrainian people’s right to write their future. There is no trading space there.”
US officials have been working to secure a united front among European allies to pose a threat of sanctions if Russia moves into an aggression. Blinken met with British, French and German ministers in Berlin on 20 January prior to the meeting with Viklov.
Blinken reiterated the US position on Friday that it was entirely up to Russia to pursue either diplomatic paths or “serious” consequences.
“That is the choice Russia is facing now, and we can choose a diplomatic path that leads to peace and security, or a path that leads only to conflict, serious consequences, and international criticism,” Blinken said. .. “US and European allies and partners are ready to meet Russia on either road.
The State Department has issued a recent statement accusing Russia of spreading “disinformation” intended to destabilize Ukraine.
He also announced sanctions on four individuals related to “ongoing Russian intelligence-led influence activities.”
“I hope not everyone at the Department of State is working on these materials, and some are working on the essence and content of our proposal,” Viklov said. It seems that it was done.
Russia took control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, causing more than 14,000 deadly violence in the Donbas region of Ukraine. The region is now virtually dominated by Russian-backed separatists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.