The United States and the European Union suspect that Russia is only trying to stage a lack of flexibility on the part of the West when it sits down to negotiate a solution to the conflict with Ukraine, thus justifying ending diplomatic channels. This is, indirectly, what lies behind Washington’s accusations against Moscow when it blames the Kremlin for plotting a pretext to invade its western neighbor again. And they are also the conclusions they draw from their meetings with the Russian negotiators. “There will be at least one more round of negotiations between the US and Russia to allow [Vladimir] Putin argue that he has tried the diplomatic route. Sergei [Riabkov, viceministro ruso de Asuntos Exteriores] I had instructions to give the impression that the conversions could not continue any longer,” says a European diplomatic document to which EL PAÍS has had access regarding the meeting held by the Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, with the ambassadors of the Twenty-seven in the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the EU to inform you about the meeting last Monday in Geneva with the aforementioned deputy minister.
Last Tuesday, January 11, one day after meeting Riabkov, Sherman went to Brussels to prepare with his NATO partners for the meeting with Russia that was to be held the following day at the Atlantic Alliance headquarters in Brussels. He told them privately how the meeting had gone and informed them of Moscow’s positions. “Russia shows 100% rigidity on three key points of its demands outlined in the draft treaties shared in December,” begins the two-page summary of the meeting. The first two points, which are flatly rejected, refer to the renunciation of an expansion of NATO and the return to the military borders of 1997. The third, “almost impossible”, demands the guarantee that there will be no offensive weapons nearby of the border. With those three cards, as in the brisca, the Russian delegation returned to the Alliance headquarters, as Sherman expected.
At the base of the current Russian demands, for which the conflict in Ukraine plays the role of a spearhead, is a radically different interpretation than that made of the Charter of Paris, signed in 1990, and the founding act of 1997 of the NATO-Russia Council, the body that met last Wednesday. The first, still signed by the USSR, sought to strengthen democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination of States, something that now collides with Putin’s claim to return to “spheres of influence” of the Cold War, such as denounces the high representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell and who also appeared at the meeting reported by Sherman. The US diplomat would have reiterated to her counterpart in Geneva that “Russia does not have the right to veto the right of other sovereign states to reach their own security agreements or spheres of influence.” Regarding the 1997 agreement, Western sources stress that “the only commitment was not to install nuclear missiles in the new Eastern allies and it has been fully complied with.”
Sherman’s suspicions could be reinforced last Friday, when the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, stressed that Moscow has “run out of patience.” “With good will it is always possible to find a mutually acceptable solution,” he added, but went on to stress that Russia was preparing for any event.
This last option is the one that many Western foreign ministries already see as the most likely. “Putin will find it very difficult to do nothing now. He has come a long way,” a diplomatic source pointed out this Saturday. And from there the deployment of “tricks” would begin with which to find excuses to justify the invasion that has been feared since the United States made public that Moscow had stationed some 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine. The same source points out that the occupation is not the only scenario that the West contemplates, there are also cyber attacks.
This is precisely what happened last Friday. Several web pages of the Ukrainian Government were attacked and the Joseph Biden Administration is clear about where to start looking for the culprit: “It is part of Russia’s tools,” a senior State Department official, Victoria Nuland, declared this Sunday. newspaper Financial Times. The American official does not unequivocally point to Moscow, but she does recall that it has already done similar things in the past and that it is part of its modus operandi. Ukraine does take the step, according to the AFP agency, stating that it has “evidence” that its great eastern neighbor is behind what happened.
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At Sherman’s meeting with his allies, there was also talk of coordinating communication because of “Russia’s knack for disinformation.” This led the American to ask the partners to fight in this field with “reports, telephone calls, press conferences”, even “retweeting” each other and staging a great unity. Hours earlier, the United States had issued a statement in which it reported at least 100 types of contacts (meetings, calls) with its allies about the current crisis.
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