US warns ‘flames of war’ are raging if Ukraine crisis talks with Russia end without success

After Thursday’s meeting in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), both US and Russian officials made pessimistic comments on the talks. It was the third session that limited to a week of intense meetings that the United States and its NATO allies expected Russia to follow the path of “de-escalation and diplomacy” rather than mobilizing thousands of Russian troops. can be inspired, whose presence has increased. Along the borders of Ukraine.

But Russian officials reacted with frustration and impatience as they walked out of the meetings, suggesting they were prepared to abandon discussions over the US and NATO’s refusal to consider Moscow’s key demands: a guarantee that Ukraine would never be allowed to join NATO and that the alliance would withdraw its expansion into Eastern Europe. The US and its NATO allies have repeatedly said that Moscow’s proposals are a non-starter.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested the talks had reached “an impasse or difference in approach” because the US and NATO would not address Moscow’s demands about Ukraine not joining NATO, he said, adding that the Russian state According to media TASS. Ryabkov said he sees no reason for the two sides to continue talks, although the US has suggested they continue beyond this week.

After Thursday’s session, US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter told reporters that “the drums of war are louder and the rhetoric has intensified”.

“We have to take this very seriously,” Carpenter said of the crowds of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. “We have to be prepared in the event that there may be an escalation.”

The president of the OSCE, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, warned after Thursday’s meeting that “the risk of war in the OSCE region is now greater than ever in the past 30 years.”

Diplomatic efforts this week – which included separate sessions between Russia and the US, NATO and OSCE – were aimed at pulling Russia back from a possible invasion of Ukraine. But Russia has no longer committed to pulling back more than 100,000 troops to the border, and the Russian military conducted live-fire exercises on the border this week as talks were underway.

‘The jury is out on which path Vladimir Putin is going to choose’

US officials categorically said in the conversation that they did not know whether Russia was serious about diplomacy or was just planning to use the sessions as a pretext for military action.

“The jury is out on which path Vladimir Putin is going to take,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC. “Is he going to choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue to solve some of these problems or is he going to pursue confrontation and aggression?”

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the US and its allies were prepared for any outcome after this week’s talks.

“The discussions were clear and direct. They were useful. They gave us and our allies things to consider, they gave Russia things to consider,” Sullivan said. “We will now consider and consult with allies and partners on how to proceed,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House.

Sullivan said the Biden administration plans to soon share information about Russian propaganda campaigns that could lay the groundwork for a pretext to invade Ukraine. “Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork for alternatives to fabricate an attack,” Sullivan said.

A senior US official said Russia has “continued to add capability” along the border over the past several days. The official said this was not an “enough” number of troops or equipment, but it was a sign the Kremlin was not de-escalating.

Russia’s next move still unclear

It is still unclear what the US plans to do if Russia does not de-escalate, but does not invade Ukraine. Throughout the week, US officials have said Russia will face consequences like it has never seen an invasion happen. But the Biden administration does not plan to impose any cost on Russia as a deterrent.

A senior State Department official said there was nothing to change that outlook.

“I don’t think there is any desire to impose any sanctions or consequences before Russian action on the ground. I don’t think that would be a productive way to go,” the official told CNN. “I think we maintain leverage if we reserve the right to apply those results after an increase.”

The head of the US delegation, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, told reporters after talks in NATO that the Russians themselves do not know what their next step is. Throughout this week’s talks, the US has repeatedly argued that diplomacy cannot happen unless Russia de-escalates, which Sherman said on Monday that the US defined as Russia whether he is returning his troops to the barracks or telling the US that “the exercises are on and what their purpose is.”

After Wednesday’s meeting at NATO, Sherman said Russia was not committed to de-escalating any tensions.

Top Biden administration officials have made it clear that they expect talks to continue in the near future, without specifying what those talks might look like.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said, “We look forward to additional engagement with the Russian Federation in the coming days. We hope that the engagement will happen, we hope this diplomatic track will continue, but more importantly, We hope it bears fruit.” Wednesday.

Russia says US demands are ‘unacceptable’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded on Thursday that the US demand was “unacceptable”.

“I don’t think we need to explain how unacceptable such demands are, and of course, we will not even discuss them,” Lavrov said.

US officials have expressed hope that discussions on areas of mutual interest between Russia and the United States – including nuclear weapons, medium-range missiles and transparency on military exercises – can continue diplomatic dialogue. NATO leaders noted on Wednesday that Russia had agreed to a meeting with the coalition for the first time in two years and that they sat through a four-hour-long meeting, which was longer than scheduled.

Tensions are high on Ukraine's border with Russia.  Here's what you need to know

“I think the reality is that I would say that the Russian delegation sat for about four hours after a meeting where 30 countries talked, and they did, which is not easy to do,” she said on Wednesday.

But if it gave the impression that Russia might be ready to compromise, Russia quickly poured cold water on it.

“The US and its NATO allies are not ready to meet with Russia on key issues,” Ryabkov said on Thursday, according to state news agency TASS. “The main problem is that the United States and its NATO allies are, for whatever reason, unprepared to meet our key demands.”

Blinken warned ahead of the talks that no success was expected this week “in an environment of escalation with a gun to the head of Ukraine”.

As Russia and NATO appeared to speak with each other, the language they used showed how far apart they lived. Russia had proposed specific treaty language in the weeks before the meetings and called them “negotiations”, while Sherman said that no formal terms were put forward, describing them as “discussions”.

Sherman said earlier this week that he did not know whether the Russians had arrived in good faith for three days of talks, or as an excuse in an effort to justify future military action.

“If Russia moves away, however, it will be quite clear that they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy,” she said. So we are collectively preparing for every eventuality.

CNN’s Anna Chernova, Zahra Ullah, Mick Craver, Barbara Starr and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.