Psaki: U.S. Will Address “Serious Concerns” Over Russia’s Threat To Ukrainian Sovereignty

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Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Psaki: U.S. Will Address “Serious Concerns” Over Russia’s Threat To Ukrainian Sovereignty” – below is their description.

Psaki says the U.S. will send written responses addressing “serious concerns” over Russia’s threat to Ukrainian sovereignty.

There was no breakthrough in the standoff over Ukraine after the top U.S. and Russian diplomats emerged separately from their meeting in Geneva only to retread old ground and agree to keep talking.

It was a bruising week for the U.S. after President Joe Biden slipped up in a news conference and laid bare divisions among his allies over what they would do in case of a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine. That left Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the uncomfortable position of clarifying the U.S. position as he went into his one-to-one with counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Both men essentially talked past each other, reinstating demands that are non-starters. Russia wants assurances that Ukraine will never join NATO and essentially wants an entire rethink of the post-war military alliance. The U.S. is trying to get on the same page with the European Union on how to de-escalate tensions and convince Russia to take its threat of sanctions seriously.

It’s far from clear that Russia does. The U.S. will soon send written responses to Russia addressing its concerns, while Lavrov dismissed Western “hysteria” over Ukraine and repeated that Moscow has no plans to attack its neighbor. The U.S. has warned that 100,000 troops massed near the border is a sign Russia is preparing a military intervention into Ukraine.

“If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent toward Ukraine, a very good place to start would be deescalating,” Blinken said Friday at the end of a three-day European trip.

Europe and the U.S. have been unable to hash out detailed responses to various scenarios that Russia might pursue in Ukraine, and options like sending NATO troops to the country aren’t on the table. The European Union has also shied away from discussing specific sanctions that could be imposed if Russia mounts an invasion.

U.S. Evacuations?

The situation remains extremely tense.

U.S. officials are now weighing whether to evacuate family members of diplomats stationed in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter, in a precautionary move that signals the situation could deteriorate further.

Under the plan, non-essential staff would be able to leave voluntarily while family members would be ordered to return home. An announcement may come within days, according to the people, who asked not to be identified before a decision is reached.

The Blinken-Lavrov meeting comes after Biden and his aides spent much of Thursday seeking to clean up after the president’s blunder. As U.S. officials worked to reassure European allies on their resolve, Biden laid out his clearest line yet on what action would trigger serious punishment.

“If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” he said.

The U.S. and Europe are warning that further aggressive Russian moves could potentially start the worst conflict in Europe in decades. While Russia denies it plans an invasion, the U.S. and its European allies say President Vladimir Putin’s intentions are unclear. Russian officials say the West is the aggressor.

“What NATO is now doing toward Ukraine clearly shows that NATO sees Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence,” Lavrov said.

Calling it a “critical moment,” Blinken said at the start of their talks that the U.S. wanted to “test whether the path of diplomacy and dialogue remains open.” Lavrov said the talks would allow the U.S. “to come up with concrete answers to all our proposals and put forward your own counter-proposals if need be.”

Russia is demanding binding security guarantees that would bar Ukraine from ever joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and require the alliance to roll back its forces to positions they held in 1997, before central and eastern European nations joined NATO. The U.S. and its NATO allies have rejected those demands.

Russia is continuing a military buildup, sending troops and armor to within a few miles of the Ukrainian border in neighboring Belarus for joint military drills that start Feb. 10. Two divisions of S-400 air-defense systems are also being dispatched to Belarus, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday, according to the Interfax news service.

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