Published on 13 Jan. 2022 at 18: 53Updated on Jan. 2022 at 19: 16
After an intense week of diplomatic negotiations, the threat of a new conflict between Russia and Ukraine remains vivid. Despite calls for dialogue, Moscow and its interlocutors still fail to speak a common language. At the end of December, Moscow, which declares that it feels threatened by the extension of NATO in its neighborhood, sent three clear requests to Washington, but nevertheless impossible to satisfy.
After a first meeting Monday in Geneva between Russian and American diplomats, then a meeting between the NATO and Russia and, this Thursday, discussions in Vienna within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the positions of Moscow and the Allies remain as far apart as ever. Whatever the place of consultation, including within the OSCE which brings together all the European States and all those of the former Soviet bloc, the conclusions drawn are bleak. “We are facing a major security crisis in Europe,” summed up Michael Carpenter, US Ambassador to the OSCE.
Do not compromise on principles
As explained by the head of European diplomacy, Joseph Borell, at the end of a meeting of European Defense Ministers which was held Thursday in Brest, “the situation is easy to describe”, but not… to solve. “There is a proposal from the Russians so that in a legal, binding, formal way, we accept that a certain number of countries, including Ukraine, can never be members of NATO. And it is demanded that NATO withdraw its military personnel from the countries which have become members of the Alliance since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“These very concrete requests receive a very concrete rejection: no way”, he explained at the end of the meeting. “It’s not that we want Ukraine to become a member of NATO. But we don’t want it to be said that a sovereign state cannot make certain decisions and that goes for Ukraine, Finland, Sweden and any other sovereign state,” he added. The veto demanded by Vladimir Putin on Ukraine’s entry into NATO could also incite Finland and Sweden , who are not members, to get even closer to it.
Open parallel dialogue on security conditions
As highlighted Michael Carpenter, the OSCE is the place where each State can express its fears for its security and where the security framework can be negotiated on many aspects: transparency of military operations, reinforcement of existing security agreements, new initiatives in favor of disarmament, but the “principles” are not to be negotiated: “We cannot compromise the sovereignty of States, nor privilege the security of one over the other, nor return to the concept of the cold war of sphere of influence.
Thursday evening, Russia indicated that it did not immediately see the usefulness of a new round of talks with the West given the deep differences noted on its demands for security guarantees. “The United States and its allies are effectively saying ‘no’ to us” on key Russian proposals, offering new talks only on “secondary” issues, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said , on RTVi television.
The negotiation channels remain open
A l After a week of talks, the situation looks even worse. On the Russian side, maneuvers are intensifying and the situation in the areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine is deteriorating. And on the American side, the Senate has adopted a list of sanctions which could concern a large number of senior Russian civilian and military leaders, including Vladimir Putin, in the event of aggression by Ukraine.
However, everyone still gave negotiations a chance. Knowing that if we have to discuss arms control or the deployment of missiles in Europe, it will be a long process. As summed up by the dean of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Luxembourger Jean Asselborn, “no door should be closed. We will not have peace with a fist and if Russia decides to intervene militarily in Ukraine, all the doors will be closed again for 20 year. It cannot be in Russia’s interest,” he said.