GENEVA — With Russian troops massing along Ukraine’s borders, American and Russian diplomats made clear after an intense round of negotiations on Monday that while the two sides would keep talking, they remain far from agreement on meeting each other’s security concerns.
Russian officials said they told their American counterparts they had no plans to invade Ukraine, in a series of talks that lasted nearly eight hours. “There is no reason to fear some kind of escalatory scenario,” Sergei A. Ryabkov, a Russian deputy foreign minister, told reporters after the meeting.
“The talks were difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete, without attempts to gloss over some sharp edges,” Mr. Ryabkov said. “We had the feeling that the American side took the Russian proposals very seriously and studied them deeply.”
Wendy Sherman, the lead American diplomat, said the United States was “pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters for the United States,” including Russia’s demands that Ukraine not be admitted into NATO, and that the alliance end its security cooperation with Ukraine.
“We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s open door policy, which has always been central to the NATO alliance,” Ms. Sherman said on a conference call with reporters. “We will not forgo bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States. And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO.”
Both sides tamped down any expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough.
“Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities,” Ms. Sherman said. “It was not what we would call a negotiation.”
The tone of the talks “makes one more optimistic,” Mr. Ryabkov said, “but the main questions are still up in the air, and we don’t see an understanding from the American side of the necessity of a decision in a way that satisfies us.”
Ms. Sherman said the two sides discussed the possibility of reviving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which the United States abandoned in 2019, after years of accusing Russia of violating its terms.
The American side raised ideas about where U.S. and Russian intermediate-range missiles are located, she said, and the United States made clear that it is open to discussing “ways we can set reciprocal limits on the size and scope of military exercises and to improve transparency about those exercises.”
The talks — the first in a series of discussions that will take place across Europe this week — revolved around the demands for “security guarantees” from Western powers that the Kremlin made in a remarkable diplomatic offensive late last year.
In December, Russia published a proposal for two agreements with the United States and NATO that would roll back Western military activity in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in essence re-establishing a sphere of Russian influence in what used to be parts of the Soviet Union.
Many of the proposals, as Ms. Sherman noted, are nonstarters for Western officials, who insist that Cold War-style regions of influence are a relic of the past and that countries should be able to choose their own alliances.
“We did not go there and go through the treaty they put on the table,” Ms. Sherman said.
Russia insists that its demands go well beyond arms control, and involve a wholesale redrawing of the security map in Europe, which the Kremlin claims the West forced upon a weak Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
If Russia does not get what it wants, President Vladimir V. Putin said last month, the Kremlin is prepared to resort to military means to achieve its aims.
(C)THE NEW YORK TIMES 2022