Russia has its hands on it, but what will it do with it? After having deployed 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, she knows that neither the Americans nor the Europeans will go to war for Kiev, in the event of a new conflict. But Moscow is also seeing the opening of a rare diplomatic space to address security issues in Europe and its neighborhood, in accordance with its aspirations. Is the Kremlin interested in a peaceful resolution of tensions, on the basis of compromise, or will it prioritize the fait accompli and force? It is in the light of this questioning of Russian priorities that a crucial week of negotiations emerges, both for the territorial integrity of Ukraine – or what remains of it after the annexation of the Crimea (2014) and the destabilization of the Donbass – and for the balance of power on the continent.
A week that the United States is entering in a difficult position. The whole strategy of President Joe Biden, for a year, consisting in limiting the subjects of crisis with Russia to better focus on China, seems proven. Especially since within NATO itself, the hypothesis of a compromise with Moscow, on the back of Kiev, moves the Baltic countries and Poland. The rapid deployment of 2,500 troops in Kazakhstan, within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO), does not undermine Russian intervention capabilities in Ukraine, even if it complicates the situation. On the other hand, it confirms Moscow’s ambition to influence the fate of its neighbors, despite very diverse national dynamics, thus denying Kiev the right to choose its orientation.
The decisive meeting of the week is that in Geneva, Monday, January 10, as part of the bilateral dialogue on strategic stability. This was initiated in mid-June, in this same Swiss city, by Vladimir Poutine and Joe Biden. Since then, two expert sessions have taken place in July and September, leading to the establishment of working groups. “There is room for compromise, but a lot will depend on the attitude of Russia, explains Rose Gottemoeller, former US Under Secretary of State for Armaments Control (2014-2016). The mobilization of its troops is like a dagger carried in the throat of the other party. Will the Russians seek common ground or repeat their unacceptable demands, such as the formal renunciation of any NATO enlargement? When a country is engaged in megaphone diplomacy, I suspect it is not negotiating in good faith. What helps is that the two chief negotiators know each other very well and have worked together on Iranian nuclear power. ”
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