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The U.S.-Russia Strategic Dialogue Meeting: What Sherman Said

Jan. 11, 2022 (EIRNS)—Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a briefing with reporters afterwards, characterized the eight-hour meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as “frank and forthright,” according to the State Department transcript of her remarks. She reported that the U.S. had put on the table ideas regarding missile deployments in Europe, including a discussion of future missile systems along the lines of the now-defunct INF Treaty. “We shared that we are also open to discussing ways we can set reciprocal limits on the size and scope of military exercises, and to improve transparency about those exercises, again on a reciprocal basis—and appreciating this will also be a topic of discussion in the NATO-Russia Council and at the OSCE meeting this week.”

The United States remains “firm,” however, that it will not agree to “slam closed” the door on NATO expansion. “We will not forgo bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States,” she said. “And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO. As we say to our allies and partners, ‘nothing about you without you.’ ” Beyond that, Sherman repeated the narrative of Russia as the sole cause of the crisis that Blinken belligerently retailed last week, including the threat of “significant sanctions” if Russia were to invade Ukraine.

Sherman also characterized yesterday’s meeting as a discussion, not a negotiation. “Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other’s priorities and concerns,” she said. “It was not what you would call a negotiation. We’re not to a point where we’re ready to set down text and begin to go back and forth. ... We are trying to have very serious, businesslike, candid, clear-eyed, straightforward conversations with each other to best understand each other’s concerns and priorities.”

Sherman complained that while the Russians say these are troops on exercises, they haven’t notified anybody about them as existing agreements require. When a reporter asked her what the U.S. means by “de-escalation,” she replied that it means “return the troops to barracks or tell us what exercises are ongoing and what their purpose is. That’s not at all clear. One doesn’t normally send 100,000 troops to a border just to sort of exercise.”

Ryabkov warned that if the U.S. stations advanced strike weapons close to Russia’s borders, there will be some form of military response by Russia. He insisted that if NATO proceeds toward the deployment of new capabilities in weaponry, “which are being developed very rapidly in the U.S.,” the Russian military may reply in a way that “will inevitably and unavoidably damage the security of the U.S. and its European allies.”

“We are calling on the U.S. to demonstrate a maximum of responsibility at this moment. Risks related to a possible increase of confrontation shouldn’t be underestimated,” Ryabkov said, adding that “significant” effort has been made to persuade the Americans that “playing with fire” is not in their interests.

Ryabkov also stressed that the Russian military will continue to hold exercises on Russian territory despite NATO’s objections. “We held and will continue holding these training events on our territory because, similar to how NATO takes care of its security, we also take care of our security and do what we deem necessary. In this process, however, we undoubtedly strictly observe all our commitments in arms control and non-proliferation, no matter what our opponents say on this score,” he said.

In recent months and years, Moscow has observed “the strongest exploitation” by the North Atlantic alliance and some states of the territory of Ukraine and other countries in close proximity to Russia’s borders, Ryabkov pointed out. “All this taken together leaves us no other choice but to strengthen the training activity on our territory,” he said.

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