Ukraine Update: 21 January, 2022 (Morning)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have concluded their talks in Geneva. As expected, the talks produced no breakthroughs and ended with a generic, insincere assurance that dialogue to resolve the crisis will continue.  The Russian government is still waiting for the official US response to its demands for security guarantees, though it is unclear if it will be delivered by the end of this week as expected.

Blinken emerged from the talks and repeated the familiar American diplomatic position that Russia now faces a decision. “It 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 secretary then went on to reiterate that any Russian invasion will be met by a ‘swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.’

Lavrov hinted that war or peace could very well be decided in Washington. He continued to place a great deal of importance on the impending official US response. Quite honestly, the Russian government has placed an inordinate amount of stock in the response. Almost as if Vladimir Putin is waiting for a resounding ‘No’ from Washington to kick off the next phase of the plan.

Lavrov used the talks as a platform to again reiterate his country’s position. Russia wants NATO to remove its military forces from the ex-Warsaw Pact nation-states that joined the Western alliance after 1997. This includes Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and practically every other former-Pact nation. There are more points to the Russian position but a removal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and a new security arrangement along the frontiers of what has historically been the Russian sphere of influence form the core of Moscow’s security demands.

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