U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman says she has briefed officials from NATO after holding talks with Russia in an attempt to remain united with Washington’s allies during a week of high-level diplomacy prompted by Moscow’s demands for a security deal and its threatening military buildup near Ukraine.
“I briefed the North Atlantic Council on yesterday’s discussions with Russia at the Strategic Stability Dialogue in Geneva,” Sherman wrote on Twitter on January 11 after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and ambassadors from NATO member states.
“The United States is committed to working in lockstep with our Allies and partners to urge de-escalation and respond to the security crisis caused by Russia,” she added.
Sherman had traveled to Brussels from Geneva, where she met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov for eight hours of talks she described as “serious” and “businesslike.”
The meeting came amid a standoff over the Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s border. The West fears it could signal Moscow is preparing an invasion of Ukraine. Russia seized and illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It also has backed separatists who’ve been battling government forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a series of demands, including guarantees that NATO will not expand further eastward to former Soviet states like Ukraine and Georgia. The Kremlin also wants the alliance to roll back troop and weapons deployments in Eastern Europe.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Putin held two phone calls in December, accompanied by a flurry of diplomacy involving officials from the United States, its European allies and Ukraine, and Russia ahead of the meetings this week.
Following the Geneva talks is a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on January 12. Separate multilateral talks under the framework of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) are also scheduled in Vienna for January 13.
Ryabkov commented after the Geneva talks that he had assured Sherman that U.S. and NATO concerns about Russia’s military buildup on its border with Ukraine were unfounded.
Still, Sherman said in a separate tweet on January 11 that Washington’s support for Kyiv was unwavering.
“We affirmed a unified @NATO approach toward Russia balancing deterrence and dialogue and stressed our unwavering support for Ukraine,” she wrote.