No breakthrough in Vienna talks over Russian demands on Ukraine, Nato

VIENNA • Talks yesterday aimed at seeking an end to the impasse regarding Russian security demands, including that Ukraine be permanently denied membership in Nato, failed to yield a breakthrough, Poland's foreign minister said.

Mr Zbigniew Rau, whose country holds chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) this year, said that for progress to be made, its members would need to enter into real dialogue.

"It's hard to speak about any breakthrough," he told a news conference after opening a weekly meeting of the 57 members of OSCE. "Some of the participating states believe that it's enough to make a statement and not to participate in debate."

An official familiar with discussions said envoys at the meeting had all read out prepared statements, rather than engaging in genuine discussions.

Mr Rau warned yesterday that Europe is closer to war than it has been at any time in the last 30 years, at the launch of Poland's year-long chairmanship of the OSCE, the region's largest security organisation.

Without naming Russia in his address to the envoys, Mr Rau mentioned tensions in Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Moldova - all countries with active or frozen conflicts in which Russia has been alleged to be a party.

"It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years," he said. "For several weeks, we have been faced with the prospect of a major military escalation in Eastern Europe."

The West has accused Moscow of massing tanks, artillery and about 100,000 soldiers on Ukraine's war-torn eastern border in recent weeks.

Russia said it was hitting a dead end in its efforts to persuade the West to bar Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisaion (Nato) and roll back decades of alliance expansion in Europe. Moscow has threatened unspecified consequences in response.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by Tass news agency as saying that Russian military specialists were providing options to President Vladimir Putin in case the situation around Ukraine worsens, but diplomacy must be given a chance.

He said that talks with the United States in Geneva on Monday and with Nato in Brussels on Wednesday had shown there was a "dead end or difference of approaches".

"If we don't hear constructive response to our proposals within reasonable timeframe and aggressive behaviour towards (Russia) continues, we'll have to take necessary measures to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security," the Russian mission to the OSCE said on Twitter, quoting its ambassador Alexander Lukashevich.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2022, with the headline No breakthrough in Vienna talks over Russian demands on Ukraine, Nato. Subscribe