From Izvestia, Jan. 14, 2022. Condensed text:
Moscow judges the negotiations with the US and NATO to be a failure. The Kremlin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have stated this assessment. Europe is giving these contacts a similarly straightforward assessment, characterizing [NATO’s] reaction to the Russian proposals as a “specific refusal.” According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, the positions of the sides are so diametrically opposed that this outcome should come as no surprise. . . .
Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the talks that took place this week in Geneva and Brussels a failure. There is a disagreement on the fundamental issues Moscow put before the West, which “is bad; these two rounds can only be considered a loss,” the Kremlin’s official spokesman said.
He also commented on a proposal by US senators to impose sanctions on Russia in the event it invades Ukraine. The bill, which a group of Democrats introduced on Jan. 12, the day of the NATO-Russia Council meeting, includes measures aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, cabinet members and the country’s military leadership. Dmitry Peskov equated these sanctions to a split between [Russia and the US], and interpreted the fact that they were published on the day of key negotiations as a senseless a priori “attempt to pressure Moscow.” . . .
Professor Yevgeny Buzhinsky of the National Research University Higher School of Economics told Izvestia: “The talks did not deliver results. [Lead negotiators] Sergei Ryabkov and Aleksandr Grushko assessed them as supposedly businesslike and professional. There are, of course, items on which agreement is entirely possible: the exercises, the missile deployments. All the other Russian demands have been turned down. From here, everything will depend on Ukraine. If [Ukraine] escalates, then Russia will have to get involved.” . . .
Moscow has declared that it was prepared for the lack of results at the talks. “We understood fairly well what sort of conversation this would be,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Channel 1 on Jan. 13. “But it was fundamental for us to fulfill the president’s direct order saying that we had to put forward in the firmest way these issues, issues that concern the entire architecture of European security.”
According to Sergei Ryabkov, the situation came to a dead end because the West and Moscow set their priorities in a different manner: NATO wants first and foremost to discuss the issues that, from Russia’s point of view, are secondary compared to not expanding the alliance. “I do not see any basis in the coming days to sit down together and begin the same discussions again,” the diplomat said, noting at the same time that “the dialogue is still ongoing” and “continues at various levels along various tracks.” “We must continue to insistently push in the right direction, toward the necessary evolution by the Western side. We will do that,” Sergei Ryabkov concluded.
Andrei Baklitsky, senior research fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and consultant at the PIR Center [for Nuclear Nonproliferation Studies], told Izvestia that “From the start, the sides had approaches that were diametrically opposed, so it’s not surprising that they stuck to their own [approaches] coming out of the first meeting. Now, as far as we can see, Moscow is waiting for a written reply from the US, on the basis of which it will move forward. But on the whole, the situation remains very tense. Russia has repeatedly said that it is against talking this process to death, and that it will not go on negotiating endlessly on the matter. Warnings are sounding about military-technical measures. In other words, if it becomes clear that the process isn’t going anywhere, some sort of countermeasures will be undertaken. But for now, the process continues.”
Sergei Ryabkov also commented on news of American sanctions. “We will find alternatives, come what may. Russia has never buckled under pressure, never given in to threats or blackmail,” he said. Currency markets reacted sharply to his statement: The MOEX fell 4% (3,674 points) by the end of trading, and the RTS fell 6% (1,516 points). The dollar rose by 1.7 rubles compared to its Jan. 12 closing price – 76.4 rubles (a 2.2% increase by end of trading); the euro increased by 2.1 rubles (+2.4%) and is trading at 87.6.
The European Union, hitherto not involved in the negotiations with Moscow, joined in the exchange of signals from the Western side. On Jan. 13, speaking from an informal meeting of EU defense ministers in France, Europe’s chief diplomat [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] Josep Borrell said that Russia had received a “specific refusal” of its demands.” . . .
Despite the sharp rhetoric from each side, Moscow is leaving itself room to maneuver – until the US and NATO “put down on paper” their response to the Russian proposals. “The Americans promised us they would try, but we told them that they must try very hard, and make their counteroffers next week,” said Sergei Lavrov. Moscow’s complete reaction is to follow this official response.