Washington/Moscow (dpa) – In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is traveling to Kiev and Moscow on Monday and Tuesday for inaugural visits.
Baerbock will meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, on January 17, a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office announced in Berlin on Friday. She will continue to Moscow that evening. Meetings with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are scheduled there on Tuesday.
According to the spokesperson, one of the themes of the trip will be the effort to progress in the so-called Norman format. These negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, mediated by Germany and France, have long been at a standstill. More recently, there was an executive-level meeting in Paris in 2019.
Deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said that after talks between Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s (SPD) foreign policy adviser Jens Plötner and his French colleague in Ukraine and Russia there was optimism cautious about his success, first at the diplomatic adviser level. the Norman format.
The talks with Lavrov will also address the question of how security can be organized in Europe “so that states do not feel threatened by each other”, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said. However, the Baerbock talks are not a continuation of consultations that took place this week in other formats, he said against the backdrop of the largely unsuccessful negotiations between the United States and Russia, within the NATO-Russia Council and within the Organization for Security and Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Lavrov asks NATO and the USA
According to the spokesman of the Federal Foreign Office, Baerbock’s trip to Ukraine will take place on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Baerbock will also meet German representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission in Kyiv. In addition, a discussion on Ukraine’s hydrogen strategy is planned.
In Moscow, the minister also wants to visit the federally sponsored “Diversity United” exhibition in the Tretyakov Gallery, the spokesman said. The exhibition was inaugurated last November as part of the Year of Germany in Russia. The exhibition, which is now on display in Moscow after its premiere in Berlin, is also devoted to controversial issues in Russia, such as gender identity and the quest for freedom.
After negotiations over Moscow’s demands for security guarantees, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov calls for a quick written response from NATO and the United States. “We are waiting for a response, a response from our colleagues on paper,” Lavrov said Friday at a news conference to mark the start of the year in Moscow. He lamented the lack of accommodation from the West during talks this week in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna.
The minister accused the alliance of continuing on a divisive path – especially in view of the most recent statements about the possible inclusion of Scandinavian countries in the alliance. It is an “artificial extension” of a NATO that essentially lost its purpose with the end of the Cold War over 30 years ago. The West also ignores international law, according to Lavrov, and intends to build a new world order.
More Russian military maneuvers
“We need legally binding guarantees. Verbal promises have never been kept by our Western partners,” Lavrov said of Moscow’s demand for binding security guarantees. Specifically, Russia wants to stop NATO’s eastward expansion and prevent neighboring Ukraine from becoming a member, which the country sees as a threat. Russia is open to “counter-proposals”.
During this time, the Russian army organized new maneuvers. The Ministry of Defense announced that there had been an unannounced review of combat readiness in the Eastern Military District. He posted a video that showed convoys of military vehicles and how tanks were loaded onto railroad cars. Soldiers were taken to remote training areas. Emphasis was also placed on infrastructure “to ensure the transport of troops within a certain time”, he said.
Just this week, the United States accused Russia of making no effort to ease the tension in the Ukraine conflict. Russia continues to have around 100,000 troops deployed on the border with Ukraine, US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told US broadcaster CNN. As of Wednesday, more than 10,000 soldiers began maneuvers in more than 20 training areas in southern Russia.
US warns against escalation
The United States recently warned Moscow of a further escalation of the conflict in Ukraine. US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said of the deployment of Russian troops to the border with Ukraine: “The risk of a military invasion is definitely high.” So far, however, the secret service has not come to the conclusion “that the Russians have finally decided to take military action in Ukraine”. Sullivan again called on Moscow to defuse and reduce troops in the area.
The US national security adviser said: “We and our allies are ready for any eventuality.” This applies both to diplomatic negotiations and in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks military escalation. “We have made very clear to Russia the costs and consequences of further military action or destabilization of Ukraine.” Sullivan again threatened Moscow with economic and financial sanctions, export controls and arming Ukraine “if the Russian army crosses the Ukrainian border”.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has warned Russia of the consequences of an attack on Ukraine. “Russia has no veto power on alliance issues and cannot blackmail us here either,” the SPD politician told the Bundestag on Friday. But there is a lot of leeway between the red lines and a military conflict that must be exploited. “We must exhaust all means to defuse this conflict.”
Representatives of the 30 NATO countries and Russia discussed Wednesday for the first time in two and a half years – the Ukrainian conflict and the security guarantees that Moscow demands from the transatlantic military alliance. There was also a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Thursday. A high-level meeting of representatives of Russia and the United States was held in Geneva on Monday.
Russia sees its security threatened by NATO and therefore demands an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and, in particular, Ukraine’s renunciation of membership. The United States categorically rejects such a commitment. Western countries, on the other hand, are alarmed by the deployment of Russian troops near Ukraine.
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