US must seize the initiative at talks with Russia

10 Jan 2022 01:29 PM

EXPERT COMMENT

When the US and NATO meet Russia to discuss its demands, they must be having the right conversation. There is little sign so far that will happen.

Russia should be pleased with what it has achieved by parking part of its army within reach of Ukraine. Ahead of the upcoming US-Russia meeting and later planned talks within the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council, there is every sign Russia may end up getting something for nothing – which will only confirm for Moscow that military threats are the best way to achieve its goals.

Russia’s demands have been widely written off as unrealistic. But based on past performance, Moscow has good reason to believe that it can extract substantial concessions. This belief will have been strongly encouraged by the responses to date of US president Joe Biden – both the early mention of finding an ‘accommodation’ for Russia’s concerns, and the promise of negotiation which endorses Moscow’s demands as acceptable for discussion.

It helps that much of the international public discussion and media coverage of what Russia is demanding misrepresents two key issues. First, the disagreement between Russia and the West is presented as being over potential Ukrainian membership of NATO, instead of concerning the foundations of European security as a whole.

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