Russia doubts continuing US negotiations

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MOSCOW: The Kremlin said Wednesday the security talks with the United States amid tensions over Ukraine have given little reason for optimism, adding that Russia would wait for the outcome of other meetings this week before deciding whether it’s worth continuing negotiations.

The leader of the U.S. delegation at Monday’s talks briefed allies in Brussels about the session and stressed the security crisis was “caused by Russia” and its troop buildup near Ukraine.

At the Geneva talks, Moscow insisted on guarantees to halt NATO’s eastward expansion and even roll back the military alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe, while Washington firmly rejected the demands as a nonstarter.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov noted that while the talks were “open, comprehensive and direct,” he emphasized that it’s the result that matters.

“So far, let’s say we see no significant reason for optimism,” he said in a conference call with reporters.

The Geneva talks are being followed by a round of Russia-NATO talks in Brussels on Wednesday and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.

“There are still several rounds (of talks) ahead of us, which will allow us to work out a clearer understanding, a clearer picture of where we stand with the Americans,” Peskov said, adding that those discussions would determine whether it would make sense to continue the negotiations.

He noted that Russia isn’t setting any deadlines for the talks but wouldn’t accept dragging them out.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova also emphasized that Moscow expects a quick Washington’s answer to its demands.

The negotiations were held amid soaring tensions over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine’s border that has stoked fears of a possible invasion. Russia has denied it has plans to attack its neighbor but pressed for legal guarantees that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, as well as roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow would take unspecified “military-technical measures” if the U.S. and its allies fail to meet the demands. Putin on Tuesday held a video call with members of his Security Council, saying in brief introductory remarks that he wanted to discuss unspecified issues related to security and infrastructure in border areas.

The U.S. and its allies have roundly rejected the demand for NATO not to admit Ukraine or any other new members, emphasizing that a key alliance principle is that membership is open to any qualifying country and no outsiders have veto power. At the same time, Washington and NATO say they are ready to discuss arms control, confidence-building measures, greater transparency and risk reduction if Russia takes a constructive stance.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation in Geneva, said she briefed the North Atlantic Council on the discussions.

“The United States is committed to working in lockstep with our Allies and partners to urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia,” she tweeted.