Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) attend bilateral talks on soaring tensions over Ukraine in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday. Photo by Martial Trezzini/EPA-EFE
Jan. 21 (UPI) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ended a 90-minute meeting in Geneva Friday without an agreement on concerns over Ukraine but committed to continue talking.
The United States had hoped to de-escalate tension on the Russian-Ukrainian border, where thousands of Russian troops are posted, and Russia looked for guarantees that their neighbor would never join NATO.
Blinken described the meeting as “talks” explaining their conditions rather than a negotiation.
“We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are on a clearer path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns, each others’ positions,” Blinken said after the meeting, according to CNN. He stressed again that Russia would face stringent economic consequences if it attacked Ukraine
Blinken said the United States would respond to Russian security concerns in writing as requested by next week, including Ukraine’s possible entrance into NATO.
Russia said it will make “serious political decisions” if they don’t receive a positive response.
“If this reply is disappointing, we will have to make serious political decisions, about which our president warned the opponents from the other side, including publicly,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, according to TASS.
“But the role of diplomacy, in any case, is central. We do not want a conflict, do not attack anyone and do not threaten anyone. We want to reliably secure our interests,” Ryabkov said.
When Ryabkov was asked by a reporter from CBS News why Russia was afraid of Ukraine, a country with a smaller military and capabilities, he responded, “We are not afraid of anyone, even the U.S.”
With tens of thousands of Russian troops gathering along the border with Ukraine, the United States and its Western allies fear Russia is preparing for an invasion of the country, something Russian leaders have repeatedly denied.
Russia has demanded a guarantee that Ukraine never join NATO, something Blinken and allies have called a “non-starter” in negotiations. Blinken said it will be up to Ukraine to determine the future of its defense.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden sparked controversy among allies by suggesting there could be disagreement among NATO and Ukraine on how to respond to a “minor incursion” by Russia.
“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do. But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine,” Biden had said during a news conference, according to CNN.
The Biden administration walked backed the comments later, saying it would consider any Russian incursion as major and would prompt a strong response.
Press secretary Jen Psaki Friday afternoon reassured that Biden was on the same page as Blinken and U.S. allies that any incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be serious.