Washington ready to “engage in diplomatic dialogue” with Moscow, but not without conditions

The United States is ready to “engage in diplomatic dialogue” with Russia “from the beginning of January,” but not without conditions, a senior White House official said Thursday.

The US executive is ready to negotiate both bilaterally and multilaterally, through “multiple channels,” said this source.

The White House, however, said that neither the date nor the place of a first meeting had been set.

“There are some points that Russia has raised and that we think we can discuss, and others that (the Russians) know we will never accept,” however, said the senior official, in a first reaction to the conference. annual press release of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Any dialogue must be based on a principle of reciprocity, that is to say that our concerns must also be put on the table,” added the senior official.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for their part assured that “the (military) alliance remains ready to conduct a constructive dialogue with Russia”, according to a statement released Thursday on the American side, after an interview between the two men.

“We continue to closely follow the alarming movements of Russian troops and the deployments on the border with Ukraine”, indicated the senior official of the White House.

He assured that the United States and its allies were preparing to take “massive sanctions” if ever Russia attacked Ukraine.

Putin satisfied with the American reaction to his demands

“I hope that the first positive reaction (from the United States), with the announcement of the start of negotiations (in Geneva) in January, will allow us to move forward,” Vladimir had said earlier. Putin during his traditional end-of-year press conference.

Russia has presented two draft treaties to ban any enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance, notably to Ukraine, and to put an end to Western military activities near Russian borders. According to Moscow, this is the only way to stem the escalation of tensions.

“There must be no NATO advances towards the East, the ball is in their court, they must respond to us,” he noted.

He reiterated that Russia will not tolerate any Western weapons system “on (its) doorstep”. On Tuesday, Mr. Putin threatened his rivals with “military and technical measures” if his demands were not accepted.

“When are they going to knock? “

Its demands, heavy with consequences for the European security architecture, have been deemed “unacceptable” by many Western voices.

Russia is suspected of preparing an invasion of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic now pro-Western, part of whose territory, Crimea, has already been annexed by Russia in 2014. More than 100,000 Russian soldiers are said to be deployed in the border.

Mr Putin said the policies of Ukraine and its Western allies, especially regarding the war against pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, posed a threat to Moscow.

“We can’t live by looking over our shoulders and thinking, what’s going to happen? when are they going to knock? “

Asked later about the repression of the Russian opposition, which was considerably accentuated in 2021, Mr. Putin judged that it was not a question of muzzling detractors but of containing operations of foreign influence.

“I remind you of what our adversaries have been saying for centuries: Russia cannot be defeated, it can only be destroyed from within,” he said. According to him, this is what brought about the fall of the USSR 30 years ago.

Throughout the year, the media, NGOs, journalists, lawyers and activists were targeted by various lawsuits. Latest target to date: the NGO Memorial, a pillar of the defense of rights in Russia, is the target of two lawsuits to dissolve it.

The year began with the arrest of the main opponent Alexeï Navalny. Then his whole movement was banned for “extremism”.

The Russian President qualified him Thursday as a criminal, referring to his conviction in a fraud case, deemed to have been fabricated by the opposition: “Con convicts, there have always been. We must not commit crimes. “

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