Will not give in to ‘non-starter demands’
The United States has said a diplomatic solution was possible with Russia but that it would not give in to its demands in talks next week, as Nato warned of real risks Moscow will invade Ukraine.
Top Russian and US diplomats meet Monday in Geneva after Moscow amassed tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border and urged the West to agree in writing not to expand Nato.
With unusual bluntness, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of "gaslighting" the world by alleging provocations by Ukraine and vowed that the talks would focus on Moscow's "aggression toward Ukraine."
"We won't be diverted from that issue," Blinken told reporters on Friday.
Using an analogy he has employed before, Blinken likened Russia to "a fox saying it had to attack the henhouse because its occupants somehow pose a threat."
Blinken said that Russia should know it was issuing "absolutely non-starter demands" but that it was part of its "playbook." Russia can "claim that the other side is not engaging and then to use that as somehow justification for aggressive action," Blinken said.
Blinken said it was up to Russia whether there will be success in Geneva, where the delegations will be led by his deputy Wendy Sherman and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
"We're prepared to respond forcefully to further Russian aggression. But a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferable if Russia chooses it," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies plans for an invasion of Ukraine, where Moscow in 2014 seized the Crimean peninsula.
"The risk of conflict is real. Russia's aggressive actions seriously undermine the security order in Europe," Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said after a video meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers.
"The Russian military build-up has not stopped, it continues and they are gradually building up with more forces, more capabilities."
Russia contends that it was falsely promised after the Cold War that Nato would not expand eastward. In draft proposals issued by Russia, Nato would agree not to take in former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia or to build bases elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
After the Geneva talks, Russia on Wednesday will meet with all 30 NATO members -- the first such encounter since July 2019.