Against Russia, regain the initiative

Editorial of the “World”. To put it mildly: the week of talks between Moscow and the West which has just opened in Geneva is not starting under the best of auspices. The main Russian negotiator, Sergei Riabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, multiplied the intransigent positions upstream and warned that Russia would not do “No concessions under pressure”.

US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken says he doesn’t hope for any breakthrough and is waiting to see if Moscow chooses “On the path to diplomacy” Where “That of confrontation”. As for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, he says he is preparing his organization for a “New armed conflict in Europe” in the event of failure of negotiations.

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Let us be clear: if there is pressure, it is from Russia that it comes. After massing, in early November, tens of thousands of soldiers armed with heavy equipment on the Ukrainian border to threaten Kiev with a new intervention, President Vladimir Putin demanded a videoconference interview with President Joe Biden , which took place on December 7, 2021, followed by the opening of bilateral discussions.

Mr Putin claims that these talks are being held on the basis of his own proposals; they consist of two draft treaties, under the terms of which NATO would undertake not to accept any more new members and the West would renounce all military activity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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These proposals, which ignore the right of peoples to control themselves and their alliances, are unacceptable, and Mr Putin knows it. This is what Wendy Sherman, the number two of the State Department, began by saying Sunday evening, January 9, to Mr. Riabkov, whom she met for dinner in Geneva, on the eve of the formal opening of the dialogue. bilateral strategic stability on Monday. These talks will be followed on Wednesday by a Russia-NATO meeting in Brussels and then, on Thursday, by another meeting within the framework of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) in Vienna.

Present a united allied front

That Moscow wishes to discuss a new security architecture in Europe is not in itself absurd. The one inherited from the Cold War is partly obsolete. The disappearance of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, the enlargement of NATO and the EU, the birth of security organizations around Russia and China, technological development in the military field, the lapsing of certain treaties justify further discussions.

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Some Europeans, including France, are asking for such a dialogue. But, apart from the fact that Moscow does not want them as interlocutors, talking with a gun to your head is not the best way to proceed. If he is serious, Mr. Putin, whose country has been clearly the aggressor since 2014 in Ukraine, must start by withdrawing his troops positioned on the Ukrainian border. The United States would then lift its threat of “Massive sanctions”.

The Europeans are right to claim a place at the negotiating table on subjects which concern them all. For this demand to be credible, they must overcome their divisions, in particular within the European Union, and formulate their own proposals, in consultation with the United States. Regaining the initiative against Moscow, presenting a united allied front and showing firmness: these are the conditions so that this week of tensions does not turn into disaster.

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Against Russia, regain the initiative