Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov have not spoken since February 15, over a week before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the State Department told Antiwar.com on Friday.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post cited US officials who said Blinken hasn’t attempted to speak with Lavrov since the start of the conflict. When asked to confirm the story, a State Department spokesperson said, “We can confirm that the last time Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov spoke was on February 15.”
“We continue to believe diplomacy is key to bringing an end to the mounting human suffering from the Kremlin’s chosen war of aggression. However, we also remain clear-eyed about President Putin’s intentions given what’s happening on the ground,” the spokesperson said.
Russian and Ukrainian officials have been engaged in negotiations, but there are no signs that the Biden administration is involved or pushing for a diplomatic solution. Instead, the US has pledged over $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine and is increasing sanctions aimed at hurting Russia’s economy.
The State Department spokesperson said that it is the administration’s position that “the Russian government needs to stop its campaign of death and destruction immediately, remove its forces from Ukraine, and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Russia’s leading negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said Friday that talks with Ukraine are ongoing and the two sides are close to agreements on secondary issues, but haven’t made much progress on key differences.
“Negotiations have been going on all week, from Monday to Friday, in video conference format, and will continue tomorrow,” Medinsky said, according to Interfax. “On secondary issues, positions are converging. However on the main political issues, we are in fact treading water.”
While Russia’s assault has been incredibly destructive, there are signs things could get much worse if the negotiations fail. A senior analyst with the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency told Newsweek that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be holding back to leave room for negotiations.
“I know it’s hard … to swallow that the carnage and destruction could be much worse than it is,” the DIA analyst said. “But that’s what the facts show. This suggests to me, at least, that Putin is not intentionally attacking civilians, that perhaps he is mindful that he needs to limit damage in order to leave an out for negotiations.”