US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a hard-line stance against Russia ahead of the Geneva talks by declaring that the nation must choose between “dialogue” and “confrontation.”
Russia has faced allegations of provocation after satellite images released on November 8 showed around 90,000 troops at the Ukrainian border. That number fluctuated to 100,000 and declined over the next two months as Russia and the United States prepared for talks in Geneva which were due to begin on Sunday.
Blinken has placed the responsibility on Russia’s shoulders to dictate the course of the talks.
“There is a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation,” Blinken told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The other way is confrontation and the massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine.”
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“We are about to test the proposal on the path President Putin is prepared to take,” Blinken added.
Blinken stressed that any successful outcome of the talks will depend in part on Russia’s willingness to withdraw from its aggressive stance.
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“So if we really want to move forward, we will have to see a de-escalation as Russia pulls out of the threat it currently poses to Ukraine,” Blinken said.
The secretary has always taken a firm stand on Russia’s actions towards Ukraine.
Blinken warned in December that Russia would face “massive consequences” if it renewed its aggression against Ukraine.
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“I think what people need to understand is that Ukraine is important, and we are resolute in our commitment to its sovereignty, its territorial integrity,” Blinken said at the time.
Russia withdrew some 10,000 troops from the border just ahead of the New Year and talks in Geneva, with Russian officials claiming troops carried out “exercises” at the border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged Western countries to commit to limiting expansion and activity as he prepares for talks with President Biden.
“You have to give us guarantees, and immediately – now,” he said of a proposal Russia handed over to the United States this month in an attempt to defuse tensions over the ‘Ukraine.
Putin said the United States had responded positively to the security proposal and was optimistic about negotiations next year in Geneva, Reuters reported.
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