The United States and Russia opened talks on Sunday in Geneva regarding soaring tensions over Ukraine, with Moscow seeking a wide-ranging new security arrangement with the West but facing strong pressure to pull back troops.
The discussions start a week of diplomacy in which Russia will meet with NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with the US trying to assure European allies they will not be sidelined.
The United States is accusing Russia of trying to “gaslight” the world regarding tensions with Ukraine, continually seeking to portray Kyiv as the aggressor even as Moscow plans to mobilize as many as 300,000 troops for a potential invasion.
“We’ve seen this gaslighting before,” Blinken told reporters, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its illegal seizure of Crimea in 2014. Gaslighting is defined by one online dictionary as causing people to doubt their sanity through psychological manipulation.
“No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident, then tries to use it to justify military intervention,” the top U.S. diplomat added, warning that Russia’s military buildup involves “nearly 100,000 troops today with plans to mobilize twice that number on very short order.”
“This is a test for Russia,” Blinken added, cautioning progress can be made only “in the context of de-escalation.”
“If it is serious about resolving the situation in eastern Ukraine and to resolve it diplomatically and peacefully, the Minsk [Agreement] is the way to do it,” he said, adding that a failure to do so would result in “massive consequences.”
Speaking separately in Brussels earlier on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Moscow’s willingness to engage in talks this coming week. But he warned that while NATO would listen to Russia’s concerns in “good faith,” the Kremlin must be willing to do likewise on a range of issues, including arms control.
“For dialogue to be meaningful, it must also address allies’ long-standing concerns about Russia’s actions,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “That has to be reciprocal.”
Stoltenberg further warned that NATO would not give in to Russian demands.
“We will not compromise on core principles, including the right for every nation to determine its own path,” he said. “We cannot end up in a situation where we have second class NATO members where NATO as an alliance is not allowed to protect them.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: PBS.ORG
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