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22nd Jan 2022

Russia and US schedule talks as Moscow derides EU

  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (l) with EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
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Russia and the US have scheduled security talks for 10 January, while Moscow continued to belittle the EU.

"When we sit down to talk, Russia can put its concerns on the table and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia's activities as well," a White House spokesman said on Monday (27 December).

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The discussions would focus on bilateral issues, such as nuclear arms control, and would include "nothing about our [European] allies and partners without our allies and partners, including Ukraine," the US spokesperson added.

Russia was also due to hold talks with Nato on 12 January and with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 13 January.

Nato and the OSCE are made up primarily of EU member states.

But for his part, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the US would be Russia's only real interlocutor.

"The United States is our main negotiator. It is with the United States that we will conduct the main round of negotiations," he told Russian media.

"The talks will be conducted by an interdepartmental delegation with the participation of the ministry of foreign affairs, [and] with the participation of the military ... at a high level in our delegation," he added.

The Nato talks would also be dominated by a Russia-US exchange, he indicated.

"These will be [with] key members of the bloc, primarily the United States," he added.

But he hardly mentioned the OSCE and he mentioned the EU foreign service only in order to mock it.

Lavrov accused the former EU foreign-affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, of "political schizophrenia". He used sexual imagery to deride the current one, Josep Borrell.

"[Borrell] solemnly proclaimed a new approach [to Russia]: 'push back, restrain, and involve'. Imagine the choreography of it all. Sorry, but this is political Kama Sutra," Lavrov said.

The talks are to come after Russia threatened to attack Ukraine once again unless Nato promised to halt expansion and pull US troops out of eastern Europe.

The Nato promise was meant to keep out Sweden and Finland as well as Georgia and Ukraine.

Russia's public demands were so outrageous that many Western commentators saw them as a pretext for going to war instead of genuine proposals.

And its desire to talk with the US or "key" Nato states, such as Germany and France, only was seen as an attempt to divide the EU while aggrandising itself on the world stage.

Meanwhile, Moscow continued to dial up tension as the countdown to the US talks began.

"Recently the alliance [Nato] has resorted to direct provocations that pose a high risk of escalating into an armed confrontation," Russian deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin claimed in a meeting with military attachés from 14 Nato states in Moscow on Monday, according to German news agency DPA.

Its defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, again claimed that US mercenaries were in Ukraine and planning to stage false-flag attacks designed to provoke a war.

"The presence of over 120 members of US private military companies in Ukraine has been proved reliably", Shoigu said, without giving any proof.

The sabre-rattling abroad has been accompanied by a tightening of freedoms for Russians at home.

A Russian court on Monday added two years to the sentence of Russian historian Yuri Dmitriev.

Dmitriev stands accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, but his supporters say he was being punished on false charges for documenting Stalin-era crimes in his former work for the NGO Memorial, which is also at risk of being shut down.

Nato seeks Russia meeting in January

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has sought a meeting of the Nato-Russia council for 12 January, but so far has not received a positive answer from Moscow.

EU warns against Ukraine talks without Europe

The German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Washington that "it is out of the question, and let me make this very clear - there cannot be a decision on the security in Europe without Europe."

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