This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The United States will in the coming days lay out its future steps in the standoff with Russia over the latter’s troop buildup near the border with Ukraine, national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said on January 16, following a week of talks that failed to ease concerns of a possible conflict.
Sullivan, in an interview with CBS, said Washington was “ready either way.”
“We’re in close touch with our allies and partners, including the Ukrainians,” Sullivan, who is the top adviser to President Joe Biden, said. “We’re coordinating closely on next steps. And we’ll have more to share in terms of the next steps into the diplomacy early next week.
“But the key point here is that we’re ready either way. If Russia wants to move forward with diplomacy, we are absolutely ready to do that in lockstep with our allies and partners.”
The United States says Russia has deployed up to 100,000 soldiers along the border with Ukraine and has accused Moscow of seeking to provoke a “pretext” for a possible offensive.
“If Russia wants to go down the path of invasion and escalation, we’re ready for that, too, with a robust response,” Sullivan said.
The United States and its NATO allies held talks this week with Russia focusing on the tensions over Ukraine and the European security architecture, but all three rounds of negotiations — in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna — failed to make significant progress.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on January 13 that Moscow saw no reason to hold a new round of security talks with the West.
On January 16, the Kremlin warned that the West and Russia are on “totally different tracks” despite the week of intense diplomacy.
“There are some understandings between us. But in general, in principle, we can now say that we are staying on different tracks, on totally different tracks. And this is not good. This is disturbing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with CNN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a series of demands for security guarantees in Europe, including NATO not accepting new members like Ukraine and Georgia, and limits on allied deployments in Eastern European NATO members.
Western officials say Russia’s combative rhetoric and troop buildup near Ukraine is an attempt to pressure the United States and European allies to bend toward the Kremlin’s wish list.
Moscow insists its military deployment is a response to what it sees as the growing presence of NATO in its sphere of influence and denies it plans to invade Ukraine.