Today in Russia/CIS: Russia sees ‘little cause for optimism’ as US releases formal response to Russian demands; US is ‘prepared either way’; Sanctions in the event of war would be crippling, according to US official; Even the thought of war is inadmissible, Kremlin claims; China says Russia’s “legitimate security concerns” should be taken seriously by Washington
The response. The US delivered a written response to Russia’s security demands on Wednesday. Washington has ruled out Moscow’s major requests: that NATO pull back its presence in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, and that Ukraine and Georgia be permanently barred from joining the military alliance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Without going into the specifics of the document, I can tell you that it reiterates what we’ve said publicly for many weeks and, in a sense, for many years.”
Little cause for optimism. Russia said it had “little cause for optimism” on Thursday after the US rejected Moscow’s demands to roll back Nato’s expansion, but left the door open for further diplomacy as the west seeks to defuse tension over a possible invasion of Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “You can’t say that our ideas were taken on board or [that the US and Nato] showed any kind of preparedness to listen to our concerns.” The spokesman added that Russia would send the US a formal reply to the US, while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov added that the US response “allowed us to count on the start of a serious conversation, but on secondary issues. There’s no positive reaction in the document on the main issue.”
Don’t worry we’re prepared. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US is ‘prepared either way’ after providing its written response to Moscow. Blinken said the US was offering “a serious diplomatic path forward, should Russia choose it”.
Crippling sanctions! The US has also upped the sanctions pressure on Moscow, repeating its warnings that it is prepared to impose crippling sanctions in the event of war with Ukraine, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed this rhetoric, added that the new measures would be “heavier than anything we’ve ever done before.” New measures would include restrictions on exports of high-tech U.S. equipment in the artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace sectors, an unnamed US official told the press, adding, “What we’re talking about are sophisticated technologies that we design and produce” and cutting them off would hit President Vladimir Putin’s “strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard.”
Don’t even think about war with Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry ruled out any plans to attack Ukraine, RBC reported. “For our part, we have repeatedly stated that our country is not going to attack anyone. We consider unacceptable even the idea of a war between our peoples,” Deputy Director for Information Alexei Zaitsev declared. Nevertheles, “overseas curators of Ukraine” continue to claim that Russia has other intentions and “intend to firmly adhere to the scenario he invented, according to which Russia should attack Ukraine, turning on the entire Western world against itself, and they are trying to do everything possible to bring it to life.”
Markets liked it. After the Foreign Ministry comments about the impossibility of war with Ukraine, the ruble recovered some of its losses against the dollar and euro. The dollar fell by almost ₽1.9 or more than 2% in trading on Thursday, January 27 and reached ₽77.61 at 16:30 Moscow time, according to the Moscow Exchange. The dollar fell below ₽78 for the first time since January 24 of this year. The euro exchange rate by the same time fell by ₽2.8 to ₽86.57. The European currency fell below ₽87 for the first time since January 21.
Legitimate concerns. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blasted Washington’s policy towards Russia and Ukraine, declaring that Moscow has “legitimate security concerns” in a phone call with his US counterpart Antony Blinken. A Chinse Foreign Ministry statement added that, “All parties should completely abandon the Cold War mentality and form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiation,” while declaring that “regional security cannot be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs,” in a not-so-vague reference to NATO. Wang also said China opposes “external interference” in how countries are run, repeating a boilerplate foreign policy mantra but apparently failing to see the irony by including this in remarks defending Moscow’s demands vis-a-vis Ukraine.
PHOTO: Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AFP).