Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow has “run out of patience” with the West and expects a written response to its demands for security guarantees within a week after diplomatic talks with NATO and the United States failed to make headway on the issue amid a buildup of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.
Diplomats have offered a dire assessment of a week of high-level diplomacy that included bilateral talks between Washington and Moscow, and separate rounds of discussions with NATO and the the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) against the backdrop of Western concerns that Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s doorstep may be a prelude to an invasion.
Speaking at his annual foreign policy news conference on January 14, Lavrov said the Kremlin wouldn’t wait indefinitely for the Western response to Moscow’s demands that NATO neither expand nor deploy forces to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states were key to diplomatic efforts to defuse soaring tensions over Ukraine.
“We have run out of patience,” Lavrov said at the news conference.
“The West has been driven by hubris and has exacerbated tensions in violation of its obligations and common sense.”
Lavrov said Russia wanted the standoff over security in Europe to be resolved with mutual respect and a balance of interests. Moscow has various options to respond if the West spurns Russia’s security proposals, he said.
Lavrov’s comments come a day after the White House said the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high with some 100,000 Russian troops deployed and the United States would make public within 24 hours intelligence suggesting Russia might seek to invent a pretext to justify one.
“The threat of military invasion is high,” White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on January 13, while Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, said after talks with Russia in Vienna that “the drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill.”
Washington and its allies have firmly rejected Moscow’s demand for security guarantees precluding NATO’s expansion, and warned of “massive consequences” if Russia renews its aggression against Ukraine.
Russia and the West also agreed to leave the door open to possible further talks on arms control and confidence-building measures intended to reduce the potential for hostilities.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on January 14 that she will travel to Moscow next week for talks over the Ukraine crisis, even though she admitted a quick solution is unlikely to be found.
“It is a characteristic of diplomacy in a crisis that it takes a lot of persistence, patience and strong nerves … This is why it is so important to intensively make use of varying channels of communications,” she said from an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers in the French port city of Brest.
In related news, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on January 14 that troops stationed in eastern Siberia and the Far East region have been scrambled for movement across the country as part of snap drills to check their “readiness to perform their tasks after redeployment to a large distance.”
The ministry noted that “special attention will be given to the assessment of the country’s transport infrastructure to ensure the movement of troops,” adding that the troops will conduct drills involving firing live ammunition after the redeployment.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and instigated separatist clashes in Ukraine’s east after anti-government protests toppled Ukraine’s Russia-friendly former president, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists who control parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.