Secretary Blinken and Russian FM Lavrov talk on Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 21, 2022.

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In the frame of efforts to reach a diplomatic solution in the Ukrainian crisis and address Russia’s unprovoked military buildup near Ukraine’s borders, Secretary Antony J. Blinken met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov at Geneva, on January 21, 2022. However, this was not a negotiation but an exchange of concerns and ideas. 

“I made clear to Minister Lavrov that there are certain issues and fundamental principles that the United States and our partners and allies are committed to defend,” said Secretary Blinken after the meeting. “That includes those that would impede the sovereign right of the Ukrainian people to write their own future. There is no trade space there – none.”

The Secretary of State conveyed the position of the United States and their European allies and partners that all stand firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The message is clear: If any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, that’s a renewed invasion and will be met with swift, severe, and united responses from the United States and its partners and allies.

Secretary Blinken conveyed directly to Minister Lavrov the US specific concerns for Russia’s actions that challenge or undermine peace and security, not only in Ukraine but throughout Europe, and the world.

“We also know from experience that Russia has an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyber attacks, paramilitary tactics, and other means of advancing their interests aggressively without overtly using military action,” added Antony Blinken. “Those types of Russian aggression will also be met with a decisive, calibrated, and again, united response.”

An inviolable rule: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine, nothing about NATO without NATO, nothing about Europe without Europe,” says Antony Blinken 

He also expressed several ideas developed in consultation with US partners and allies to reduce tensions and increase security. “But right now, there’s still a window, a brief one, to bring those talks to a successful conclusion and address the remaining concerns of all sides. We didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today, but I believe we are now on a clearer path in terms of understanding each other’s concerns, each other’s positions,” concluded the Secretary of State.

Intense contacts with Allies

Before meeting the Russian Foreign Minister, Secretary Blinken had an intense week of discussions at the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council, and the OSCE on the crisis in Ukraine and broader European security issues.

Their objective was to determine whether Russia is prepared to take the diplomatic path and other necessary steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and, ultimately, to resolve differences through diplomacy and dialogue.

That’s the clear message coming out of Blinken’s meetings on Wednesday, January 19, in Ukraine with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

With the latter, the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke again – by phone – on January 21 after his trip to Europe. He briefed Foreign Minister Kuleba on his meetings with Allied and Russian officials in Berlin and Geneva and underlined that any further Russian incursion will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and its Allies.

The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and stressed there would be no decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine.

On January 20, Blinken had a meeting in Berlin with his counterparts from Germany, the UK, France, and the European Union.

Blinken, had a separate meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Chancellor Scholz and Secretary Blinken reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen the U.S. – Germany partnership and emphasized the importance of the transatlantic bond to global security and prosperity. The Chancellor and the Secretary reiterated their steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and joint commitment to impose massive consequences and severe costs should Russia escalate its aggression against Ukraine.

The choice that Russia faces now

The message is clear. If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, Russia will face massive consequences. 

“We have different authorities in our different countries that we have to look at,” underlined Secretary Blinken. “There will no doubt be if these sanctions prove necessary, a division of labor. But everything will be complementary and mutually reinforcing, and closely coordinated.”

The choice that Russia faces now is clear. Can choose the path of diplomacy that can lead to peace and security or the path that will lead only to conflict, severe consequences, and international condemnation. 

The United States and their allies and partners in Europe stand ready to meet Russia on either path and will continue to stand with Ukraine.

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