WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Russian counterpart on Friday that the Kremlin could alleviate tensions and concerns about possible attacks by eliminating unusual troops and equipment off the Ukrainian border.
The meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came after Western officials, including President Joe Biden, have said they expect Moscow to launch an attack.
“If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be by deescalating by bringing back and removing these forces from Ukraine’s borders,” Blinken said.
A meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came as Western officials, including President Joe Biden, said they expected Moscow to invade Ukraine. American intelligence has revealed that Russia could attack within a month.
The US is unsure of Russia’s claim that it is not preparing for an attack on its former Soviet neighbor, Blinken said.
“If Russia wants to start convincing the world that it has no intention of invading Ukraine, the best place to start would be to demolish it by retrieving and removing these troops from Ukraine’s borders,” Blinken told reporters following a 90-minute meeting. and Lavrov in Geneva.
“We and all our partners and colleagues are equally committed to ensuring that we do our utmost to ensure in Russia that there will be a quick, strong and united response to any form of Russian atrocities against Ukraine,” Blinken added. .
Meanwhile, Russian officials have repeatedly called on the US to block the rise of NATO in the east, the world’s largest military alliance.
Russia also demanded that the US “establish military bases” in the territories of any former Soviet non-NATO allies, or “use its infrastructure in any military operations or improve cooperation with the two militants.”
Since 2002, Ukraine has sought to join NATO, in which Article 5 of the group states that a single member state attack is considered an all-out attack.
Asked about those demands on Friday, Blinken said the US, together with the NATO alliance, would not negotiate conditions for members’ entry into the Kremlin.
Before heading to Switzerland, Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to ruling Ukraine. The national strategist then traveled to Berlin to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to discuss joint efforts to stem the tide of Russian violence against Ukraine.
“These are the serious problems we face. Resolving them will not happen immediately. I do not expect to settle in Geneva, ”said Blinken in Berlin. “But we can both improve our comprehension. And that, along with the deterioration of the Russian military base on the Ukrainian border – could remove us from this problem in the coming weeks, ”he added.
Blinken’s trip comes after a series of high-profile talks between US and European officials and Russian allies. After those meetings, Biden officials accused Russia of preparing a “false flag” to be used as a prelude to the Ukrainian invasion. Russia has denied the allegations.
“We are now in a position where Russia can attack Ukraine at any time,” a State Department official told reporters on Tuesday.
“President Putin created the problem by stopping 100,000 Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. This includes the Russian military evacuation in Belarus over the weekend. ”Added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of Blinken’s trip.
Earlier this week, Biden said he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an attack on Ukraine, and warned that “disaster” awaited Russia if that happened.
Biden’s speech comes after intelligence agencies warned that such an attack could take place within a month.
“I think he will come in, he has to do something,” Biden said on Wednesday when asked by Russian troops stationed on the Ukrainian border.
“It will be a disaster for Russia if it continues to invade Ukraine. Our partners and colleagues are ready to make a significant contribution to Russia and the Russian economy, ”Biden said at his second independent conference since taking office.
“And I think you’ll regret it,” Biden added.