Update on US-Russian Diplomatic Talks on Ukraine Crisis

Foreign Policy Brief #140 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | January 20, 2022

Header photo taken from: The New York Times




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Jen Psaki said Russia could invade Ukraine within the next month or so.

Photo taken from: The Associated Press

Policy Summary

On January 10, 2022,  US, its NATO allies and  Russian officials began a week of talks in Vienna and other European cities in an attempt to de-escalate the rising tensions on the Ukrainian border. The meetings ended without any breakthrough and did not succeed in their key objective: removing the immediate threat of tens of thousands of Russian troops stationed at the Ukrainian border.

Russian officials were angered at NATO’s refusal to guarantee their key demands, that Ukraine never is granted membership to NATO, and that the alliance withdraws its forces from Eastern Europe. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov suggested the talks had reached a dead-end and stated he didn’t see a reason for the two sides to continue talks. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that the US would do what was necessary to reinforce Ukraine defensively and economically, “we are planning and putting together things that we have not done in the past”. US officials have also warned of the talks being a false-flag operation to give Russia the pretext for an invasion.

Policy Analysis

As a former Soviet republic, Ukraine is used to having decisions made on its behalf in foreign capitals. Russia’s demands seek to have Ukraine remain in its sphere of influence. Moscow has stated it is threatened by NATO’s expansion eastward towards its borders, having taken in 14 new members from Eastern Europe since the Cold War ended. Ukraine has become Russia’s redline. The US and our  NATO allies are attempting diplomacy to engage with Russia and stop an escalation of violence.

US officials have warned that these talks may have been a false-flag operation to allow Russia to assert it had no options left to defend itself if diplomacy fell through. Russia’s list of demands was made to signal to the US and NATO that they should comply or else. We refused, and now we have entered the “or else” timeframe, waiting to see what Russia’s response will be.

For the moment there is still time to avoid an invasion into Ukraine if any sort of comprise or effective deterrent can be reached soon. It had been suggested previously that the build-up of troops along the Ukrainian border may have been a show of force for Russia, to let the West know it meant business but might not actually lead to conflict if its bluff worked. 


Photo taken from: The Sun

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Whether that action was a show of force, a way to distract the Russian public under the guise of nationalism, reaction to the fear of a democratic Ukraine that might inspire the Russian public, or an attempt to recreate the former Soviet Sphere of influence, with the stagnation of talks, the threat remains high. 


The next steps now will depend on if Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to take the gamble of an invasion of Ukraine..

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on resource URL to visit links where available 

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NATO– NATO is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. If diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations.

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U.S. Department of State– The U.S. Department of State leads America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance by advancing the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity.

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