Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that it would be hard to make progress with Russia during upcoming security talks as long as a “gun is pointed to Ukraine’s head.”
Russia denies US accusations that it is planning an invasion of Ukraine and points to US and NATO activity in the region as the source of tensions. The US and Russia are set to hold talks on the Ukraine situation and other issues on January 10th in Geneva.
“I think if they’re going to bear fruit, if they’re going to show real progress, that will require de-escalation,” Blinken said of the upcoming talks. “It’s very hard to make actual progress in any of these areas in an atmosphere of escalation and threat with a gun pointed to Ukraine’s head.”
Blinken made the comments alongside German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who warned at the same press conference that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would have “severe consequences.” The US has been coordinating closely with its European allies ahead of the negotiations with Russia to present a united front.
While Baerbock warned of “severe consequences,” the Western powers have stopped short of threatening military action if Russia invades. The US has threatened major sanctions against Moscow that would aim to isolate Russia from the global financial system, which Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against during a recent call with President Biden.
Among other things, Russia wants guarantees from the US that NATO won’t expand further eastward. Since 2014, the US and NATO have significantly increased their presence in the Black Sea and other areas near Russia, and Moscow is getting tired of the Western provocations.
Other issues are expected to be discussed, including arms control. After the US-Russia talks on January 10th, NATO will hold a meeting with Russia at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. On January 13th, the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will meet.