Russia says it’s ‘disappointed’ by US signals before Geneva talks

In this file photo, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov gives a press conference on the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in Moscow on August 5, 2019. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

MOSCOW – Russia said on Sunday it was "disappointed" by signals from Washington and Brussels on the eve of talks in Geneva and that the United States was insisting on unilateral Russian concessions, the Interfax and RIA news agencies reported.

Talks between US and Russian diplomats begin in Geneva on Monday after a weeks-long standoff over Russian troop deployments near its border with Ukraine, with veteran envoys on each side trying to avert a crisis. 

Interfax quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying Moscow was not optimistic going into the talks.

On Saturday, a senior Biden administration official said the United States and its allies are prepared to discuss with Russia in talks about Ukraine the possibility of each side restricting military exercises and missile deployments in the region

On Saturday, a senior Biden administration official said the United States and its allies are prepared to discuss with Russia in talks about Ukraine the possibility of each side restricting military exercises and missile deployments in the region.

The official said the United States is not willing to discuss limits on US troop deployments or the US force posture in NATO countries in the region.

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President Joe Biden has warned Russia will face severe economic consequences if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to launch an invasion of Ukraine. US officials on Saturday provided more details on tough sanctions that could be imposed.

One restriction, as described by a source familiar with the plan, could target critical Russian industrial sectors, including defense and civil aviation, and would invariably hit Russia’s high-tech ambitions, such as in artificial intelligence or quantum computing, or even consumer electronics.

The Geneva talks, to be followed by other sessions next week in Brussels and Vienna, are aimed at averting a crisis. 

It remained unclear whether the United States and its European allies can make progress in the talks with Moscow. Putin wants an end to NATO's eastward expansion and security guarantees, demands the United States says are unacceptable.

But the senior US official, briefing reporters ahead of the talks, said some areas present opportunities for common ground.

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"Any discussion of those overlapping areas where we might be able to make progress would have to be reciprocal," the official said. "Both sides would need to make essentially the same commitment."

Russia has warned against the United States deploying offensive missile systems in Ukraine, even though Biden has assured Putin he has no intention of doing so.

"So this is one area where we may be able to reach an understanding if Russia is willing to make a reciprocal commitment," the official said.

The United States is also willing to discuss restrictions by both sides on military exercises, the official said.

"We are willing to explore the possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of such exercises, including both strategic bombers close to each other's territory and ground-based exercises as well," the official said.

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The official said Washington is open to a broader discussion on missile deployment in the region. In 2019, Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, on accusations Moscow was violating the accord.

A separate senior Biden administration official said penalties being explored in the case of a Russian invasion would not start low and be tightened over time.

The United States has been discussing with allies and partners in Europe and Asia a range of trade restrictions under consideration, the source familiar with the planning said.

No decisions have yet been taken, but restrictions under consideration could impact US products exported to Russia and certain foreign-made products subject to US jurisdiction.