By Kevin Zhang
Formal talks are now ongoing between American and Russian officials in Geneva regarding the fate of Ukraine. Expectations for the outcome of the meeting are low, and tensions are high as many fear the Kremlin will order an invasion.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov’s delegation arrived escorted by Swiss police to meet in face-to-face talks with Wendy Sherman, US deputy secretary of state and her team. Talks paused for lunch and resumed in an afternoon session.
The two senior diplomats made brief eye contact when they posed for photographs beforehand. In a tweet, the Russian diplomatic mission in Geneva tweeted, “The talks promise to be long and substantial”.
In an earlier tweet, Sherman had said “the US will listen to Russia’’s concerns and share our own”.
The diplomats held a working dinner on Sunday evening with military officials in the delegations in order to discuss Russian demands. The demands were set out in December in two draft treaties to both the US and NATO.
Ryabkov described the conversation at dinner as “difficult but businesslike”.
A state department record of the dinner stated that Sherman “stressed the United States’ commitment to the international principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the freedom of sovereign nations to choose their own alliances”, and said that she told the Russians the US would “welcome genuine progress through diplomacy”.
Russia has 100,000 troops positioned near Ukraine and around the same amount prepared to mobilize quickly, according to Antony Blinken, US secretary of state.
“There are two paths before us”, he told CNN. “There’s a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation. The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine. We’re about to test the proposition about which path President Putin’s prepared to take.”