Geneva, Brussels and Vienna – failed but necessary negotiations


Following the escalation of diplomatic aggression between the Russian Federation and Western partners, amid increasing Russian military presence on the border with Eastern Ukraine, several rounds of negotiations took place on January 10-14, 2022. Topics such as “NATO enlargement”, the conflict in Ukraine or areas of influence have been addressed to define those red lines that partners cannot accept.

The first meeting took place on January 10, 2022, in Geneva, where the delegations of the United States of America and the Russian Federation met. The talks were led by US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov.

Both sides presented the official positions of the states they represented. The United States coordinated several common points with European partners before this meeting. Ned Price, the spokesman for the US State Department, said after talks conducted by Wendy Sherman, the US Deputy Secretary of State, with senior European Union officials that the measures approved by the allies in a coordinated manner would have immediate, severe and coordinated consequences. The partners will advocate for a strong and united transatlantic front against Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In the same context, of the worsening of Moscow’s bilateral dialogue with the US in particular, the presentation of draft sanctions against Russia in the US Senate, which also includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, was appreciated by Russian officials as a reason severe for the rupture of relations between Moscow and Washington.

The NATO-Russia Council meeting followed the bilateral talks between Russia and the United States.

Following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on 12 January 2022, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared that Russia raised once again the proposals published by the Moscow government in December (the Agreement on measures to ensure the security of The Russian Federation and member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Treaty between The United States of America and the Russian Federation on security guarantees). According to him, the Allies reiterated their support for maintaining NATO’s Open Door policy and keeping military forces on the territory of eastern members despite Russia’s request to withdraw forces from eastern Allies and to stop admitting new members in NATO.

The Allies agreed that the matter concerning Ukraine possible membership in NATO is something that can only be decided between the already existing 30 members and Ukraine and that Russia or any other country doesn’t have a say or veto in this issue. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that Russia should respect two principles: the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours and that allies are ready to support Ukraine on its path towards membership. The NATO Secretary General’s speech also referred to the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.

During this meeting, no concrete proposals were reached but both sides agreed that more meetings should take place and that dialogue is an important step for solving these issues. Among the topics that the NATO Allies wish to reach in the future meetings, the Secretary-General pointed out: increasing the transparency of military exercises, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as ways to improve civil and military communications channels, and the possibility of re-opening the NATO office in Moscow and the Russian one in Brussels.

The NATO-Russia Council met with this occasion for the first time since 2014 when due to the annexation of Crimea a lot of communication channels between Russia and the West were frozen up. By the joined commitment and willingness to reengage in discussions at this forum, both powers showed their willingness towards dialogues and hopefully, more such meetings will be seen in the future.

After Geneva and Brussels, talks on the military situation on the border with Ukraine and the Russian threat in Eastern Europe took place in Vienna, within the OSCE. According to Free Europe, experts appreciated Russia’s participation as an encouraging gesture from Moscow, which had refused in 2021 to participate in talks on Ukraine. Even so, through its official, Moscow has tried to show that it is ready for an escalation of the diplomatic conflict. Sergei Riabkov said in the last round of talks that if tensions with the West did not ease, he could not rule out the deployment of Russian troops in Cuba or Venezuela. Following discussions, Russia’s ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, maintained the same line, arguing that misunderstanding Russia’s interests could be “dangerous.”

These are just the first rounds of negotiations, which were organized after the disagreement between Russia and Western partners of Kyiv on the settlement of the conflict in Donbas and the merging of military troops on the eastern border of Ukraine. Although participants saw the three rounds of negotiations as a failure, experts say the officials must identify viable options for future discussions.

Author: Roxana Irod, Student National School for Political and Administrative Studies, ESGA Intern

This analytical commentary is elaborated within the “The unresolved conflicts from Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. A common EaP and EU vision for reconciliation and confidence-building across the region” project.

The project benefits from support through the EaP Civil Society Forum Re-granting Scheme (FSTP) to Members and is funded by the European Union as part of its support to civil society in the region. Within its Re-granting Scheme, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) supports projects of its members that contribute to achieving the mission and objectives of the Forum.

Grants are available for CSOs from the Eastern Partnership and EU countries. Key areas of support are democracy and human rights, economic integration, environment and energy, contacts between people, social and labour policies.

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