US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned Russia that the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will not acquiesce to its demands as officials from both countries meet next week in Geneva to discuss issues surrounding Ukraine. Blinken, however, said that if Russia prefers it can also choose to opt for a more diplomatic solution.
Top Russian and US diplomats, led by deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and deputy foreign minister of Russia Sergey Ryabkov, will meet in Geneva on Monday as Russia amassed a large number of troops near the Ukrainian border and further demanded that NATO give it in writing that it will not expand further.
“We’re prepared to respond forcefully to further Russian aggression. But a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferable if Russia chooses it,” Blinken was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.
Blinken further criticised Russia and termed it as the aggressor. He said that the talks will focus on the situation in Ukraine and will not be ‘diverted from the issue’. The secretary of state also said that Russia ‘gaslighted’ the world by alleging that Ukraine was behind provocations.
Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier last year denied any plans for invading Ukraine. Russian forces in 2014 seized the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine and fueled pro-Russian separatists in the troubled region. Russia continues to ramp up its pressure on Ukraine after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following the Euromaidan protests which demanded closer relations between EU and Ukraine.
The number of deaths due to the unrest in the Crimean peninsula have crossed the 13,000-mark.
The US secretary of state also compared Russia to a ‘fox which attacked the henhouse because its occupants somehow pose a threat’. He further added that it was up to Russia to make sure that the discussions in Geneva are ‘successful’. The EU and NATO are concerned with Russian buildup near the Ukraine-Russia border.
“The risk of conflict is real. Russia’s aggressive actions seriously undermine the security order in Europe,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was quoted as saying by news agency AFP after a meeting between foreign ministers of the NATO countries.
Russia claims that the US and NATO did not stick to its previous commitment post-Cold War that NATO would not expand eastward. Russia’s draft proposal asks NATO to not make former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia members of NATO and not build bases in any region which was part of the former Soviet Union.