Obstacles to US-Russia Talks

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Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State of the United States (US), is touring Europe from December 5 to 11. Sherman plans to discuss the situation in Ukraine with US allies during her trip to Europe. As expected, the White House’s strategy towards Russia will be updated according to the results of this trip. In this context, Washington will decide on the conditions for negotiating with Moscow. In this context, Sherman will visit England, France, Germany, Italy, and Czechia. In addition, Sherman is scheduled to hold talks at the Vatican during her visit to Italy.[1]

As it is well known, Pope Francis has been offering to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine for the last few months. Vatican Foreign Affairs Minister Paul Richard Gallagher also offered mediation and expressed that the Vatican is ready to create a platform for negotiations. Similarly, in September 2022, Pope Francis called for the revival of the “Helsinki Spirit.” In October of the same year, Pope Francis invited the leaders of the two countries to dialogue. In November 2022, Pope Francis took responsibility for the prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Alexander Avdeev, also stated that the lists from Pope Francis were considered for the release of Ukrainian prisoners.[2]

Sherman was a key participant in negotiations on Russia’s security guarantees in early 2022, but negotiations broke down after the war. Sherman has also chaired the American delegation in past negotiations on the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. Indeed, nuclear issues are also on the agenda in Russian-Western contacts in the context of the war in Ukraine. Moscow’s threats regarding the use of nuclear weapons and the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant make it necessary to address these issues in the ongoing consultations.

Consultations on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) are also crucial. Although the START talks were supposed to take place in Cairo on November 29-December 6, 2022, Russia decided to postpone these meetings. Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Ryabkov stated that the decision in question was “taken at the political level” and that the inconsistencies between the priorities of the two countries caused this result. According to Ryabkov, while Americans focus only on START; The Moscow administration also attaches importance to the solution to other problems. Of course, the developments in Ukraine also play a role in this situation.[3]

On December 1, 2022, i.e., after the postponement of the START negotiations, US President Joe Biden said that he was ready to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the joint press conference held after he meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House, Biden stated that he could meet with Putin to end the conflict in Ukraine, but Moscow must take some decisions. [4] In this context, Biden said the following:[5]

If that is the case, that is if Putin intends to end the war in Ukraine, then I will be happy to sit down at the negotiating table in consultation with our NATO partners to see what Putin thinks.”

According to Biden, Russia’s calculations failed in Ukraine’s intervention. Indeed, the US President believes that it makes no sense to accept Moscow’s victory and argues that the way to end the war is for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.[6] It can be stated that Washington and Kyiv use similar rhetoric in this regard.

  • Russia’s withdrawal from Ukrainian territory
  • Moscow to pay compensation to Ukraine
  • Punishment of all war criminals
  • Russia’s voluntary surrender of nuclear weapons

On the other hand, there is no sign of a resumption of the negotiation process in the Kremlin administration. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the conditions stated by Biden were unacceptable and that the Russian Army would continue its operations in Ukraine. In this sense, Peskov called on Washington to recognize the places where Russia held referendums as Russian territory, arguing that failure to do so would make it difficult to end the conflict.[7]

On the other hand, on 3 December 2022, Defense Minister of Russia Sergey Shoigu visited Belarus and met with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. According to Ukrainian officials, Shoigu requested Lukashenko to use the country’s infrastructure and military bases, especially weapons and military equipment.[8] This visit can be interpreted in two ways. The first is that the claim that Moscow wants support from Minsk in a military-technical sense reflects the truth. The second is for Russia to launch a new offensive from the north of Ukraine, thereby focusing the Ukrainian Army in two regions and halting its advance in the east, and thereby imposing the status quo on the ground on Western actors.

Lukashenko, on the other hand, in his meeting with Shoigu, said that Russia and Belarus do not want war and that they exchanged ideas on ensuring their territorial integrity in a phone call they had with Putin.[9] In fact, by making such statements, Lukashenko revealed that his support to Russia would be limited to the training activities of Russian soldiers and that he did not want to be involved in the war against Ukraine. In other words, Lukashenko favours a defence-based policy. In response, the US has stated that it will continue to provide arms support to the Ukrainian Army.

As a result, both the US and its allies and Russia are looking for grounds for dialogue and negotiations. However, both sides expect the other actor to back down by making concessions and rejecting the conditions offered to them. This means that the war will be protracted.

[1] “Первый замгоссекретаря США отправится в Европу для обсуждения ситуации вокруг Украины”, TASS,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[2] “В Ватикане предложили организовать у себя переговоры России и Украины”, Vedomosti,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[3] “Рябков объяснил, почему отменили встречу по ДСНВ с США”, Tass,, (Date of Accession: 5.12.2022).

[4] “Байден заявил о готовности обсуждать с Путиным завершение боевых действий на Украине”, TASS,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “В Кремле условия Байдена по переговорам с Россией назвали невозможными”, Ria Novosti,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[8] “Арестович рассказал, о чем в Минске договорились Шойгу и Лукашенко”, Post Factum,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

[9] “Лукашенко на встрече с Шойгу: ни вы, ни мы войны не хотели и не хотим”, Belta,, (Date of Accession: 05.12.2022).

Lisans öğrenimini Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde tamamlayan Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu, yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda almıştır. Doktora eğitimini İstanbul Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi ve Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda tamamlayan Dr. Askeroğlu, çeşitli düşünce kuruluşlarında görev yapmıştır. Başlıca ilgi alanları, Avrasya çalışmaları ve Rus dış politikası olan Dr. Askeroğlu, iyi derecede Rusça ve İngilizce bilmektedir.