Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov Suggests Negotiations on “Secondary Issues”
While NATO expansion continues to be a sticking point in the discussions, officials have hinted that there may be agreement on some other issues.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered measured praise for U.S. negotiators in talks to end the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian crisis, claiming that there were “grains of rationality” in Washington’s proposals and comparing them favorably to similar ones made by NATO officials.
NATO and its constituent nations, including the United States, have pursued negotiations with Russia since the beginning of January in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis. Russia has positioned at least 130,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. Although the details of the negotiations have largely not been made public, public statements by officials such as Lavrov have provided some insights.
In an online press briefing, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan mentioned that the United States had offered Moscow transparency over missile deployments in Europe and military exercises in the east. However, Sullivan indicated that the United States had refused to give ground on the issue of NATO’s expansion, which he insisted could not be subject to a Russian veto. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also indicated that Washington had refused to make any concessions on “core principles,” although he left open the possibility of compromises elsewhere.
The issue of NATO expansion is central to the current crisis. Ukraine has made it a foreign policy priority to enter the military alliance, and NATO has agreed in principle to allow Kiev’s accession in the future, although it has not formally initiated this process. The Kremlin has insisted that Ukraine’s entry into NATO – potentially paving the way for missile deployments or training exercises within the country – represents an unacceptable threat to Russia’s national security. While Russian leaders have insisted that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine, they have used the troop buildup to draw attention to Russia’s “red line” with regard to Ukraine and demand the West recognize it.
In his public remarks, Lavrov has also cautioned Western policymakers against implementing harsh sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin or disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international banking transaction system. The Russian foreign minister indicated that the latter action would be tantamount to severing diplomatic ties altogether.
On Friday, Lavrov held discussions on the Ukraine issue with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. He is also expected to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the coming weeks.
Also on Friday, Putin spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, although neither leader appeared to offer concessions or further insight into their positions.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.