President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely hold talks in the “near future” after a meeting between the US and Russia’s top diplomats made no apparent progress on tensions over Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.
Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation on Europe summit in Stockholm. According to The Guardian, the two diplomats spent their 40-minute conversation “trading threats” and opted not to make a joint appearance to the press in a sign that there was no breakthrough.
“We had a very direct, very candid, non-polemical exchange of views,” Blinken said after the talks. “It was serious; it was sober. I believe that the foreign minister will take the conversation back to President Putin. I’m going to do the same, of course, with President Biden. And I think it’s likely the presidents will speak directly in the near future.”
Over the past few weeks, the US has been claiming Russia is planning to invade Ukraine, but Moscow denies the accusation. The US bases the claim on what it calls a Russian “troop buildup” near Ukraine’s border. For their part, Russia says its military movements inside its own borders are not meant as a threat, and Moscow is now accusing Ukraine of amassing troops near the conflict zone in the eastern Donbas region.
Blinken said Thursday that there would be “severe costs” if Russia invaded and called on Moscow to de-escalate. “It’s now on Russia to de-escalate the current tensions by reversing the recent troop buildup, returning forces to normal peacetime positions,” he said.
Another major concern for Russia is the increase of US and NATO military activity in the region. Lavrov said NATO has shot down proposals from Russia to ease tensions. “NATO continues its activity aimed at escalating the situation directly on our borders. NATO refuses to consider our proposals on easing tension and preventing dangerous incidents,” he said.