“The war drums are beating loudly and the rhetoric has become quite strident.” The words, pronounced this Thursday by the United States ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Carpenter, give a good example of the point at which the negotiations are after the third round of diplomatic contacts between Russia and the West to prevent a military escalation in Ukraine. Some words that in their crudeness were only equaled by those pronounced by the Polish Foreign Minister, Zbigniew Rau, who at the meeting held in Vienna warned that the risk of war in Europe “is now greater than ever in the last 30 years ”. Rau addressed his remarks to the 57-nation OSCE, an organization that includes Russia, Ukraine, the United States and several European nations to foster inter-bloc dialogue. “For several weeks we have been facing the possibility of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe,” he added. It was the third time this week Russia discussed security with Western countries. A pessimistic scenario for which a meeting in which it was hoped to calm the growing crisis on the Ukrainian border, where there is a large Russian military presence, was of little use, but which ended with the organizers saying that no progress had been made. Russia has mobilized 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, while issuing a series of security demands that NATO has said are impossible to meet, such as withdrawing troops from the alliance’s eastern members or blocking any request for Kiev membership.
Ukraine has starred in this week’s talks between Russia and Western countries, but was not present at either the negotiations in Geneva between Washington and Moscow or those in Brussels between NATO representatives and the Kremlin. However, and as a member of the OSCE, it did participate in the first meeting of the organization’s Permanent Council in 2022, in which tensions were addressed but without achieving any progress, except for the commitment to maintain dialogue. In this line, Carpenter reaffirmed the willingness of the United States to continue with the talks, but added that “we are not going to renegotiate the basic principles”, listing the Helsinki Agreements of 1975, the UN Charter and the Paris Charter of 1990, which allude to the right of sovereign states to make their own decisions about their security. “Those are our foundations,” he said.
OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid said the current situation in the region was “dangerous” and there was an “urgent need to reinvigorate the European security debate.” “It is imperative that we find a way through diplomacy to de-escalate and begin to rebuild the trust, transparency and cooperation”, assured at the meeting. However, Russia’s envoy to the OSCE said that patience in Moscow is wearing thin for what he sees as “unacceptable threats to our national security.” Moreover, they threatened that Moscow would take “necessary measures” if the West did not respond to Russian demands. “If we do not hear a constructive response to our proposals within a reasonable time and aggressive behavior towards Russia continues, we will have to take the necessary measures to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security,” the Russian mission said. , who also warned that “a crisis may arise on the continent with unpredictable consequences for European security.”
The West is wary of Russia’s deployment of tanks, artillery and some 100,000 troops to the Ukraine border in what some observers say could be preparations for an invasion. While the Kremlin insists the military action is a response to what it sees as NATO’s growing presence in Eastern Europe. The talks come amid a week of intense diplomacy, with Russian officials holding talks with the United States, NATO and the OSCE in Europe. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged Russia to show that it does not want to resolve the situation with aggressive actions. “Despite the unsatisfactory week of great diplomacy for Russia, I believe that the only way for the Russians to confirm their lack of intention to solve the problems by force is to continue the discussion in the established formats, in particular in the OSCE”, Kuleba said.
There is little chance of Ukraine joining NATO any time soon, according to experts, as Kiev does not meet the membership requirements. But Moscow “doesn’t trust the other side,” Ryabkov said. “We need strong, waterproof, bulletproof and legally binding guarantees. There are no guarantees, no safeguards.” The head of foreign policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, assured at the end of the talks that there should be no negotiations with Russia as long as Moscow continues its military presence near its border with Ukraine.