July 30, 2021

Dealing with a devil


Officials from the United States and Russia met in Geneva on July 28 to discuss strategic nuclear stability, and to specifically find agreement on reducing their respective nuclear arsenals. Experts on the issue believe the two countries account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

The U.S. State Department released a readout of the meeting on July 28 between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman – who led an interagency delegation from the National Security Council, the State Department, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the Department of Energy – and Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who led the Russian delegation.

“Today’s meeting in Geneva was the beginning of this dialogue with the Russian Federation,” the readout of the call said. “The U.S. delegation discussed U.S. policy priorities and the current security environment, national perceptions of threats to strategic stability, prospects for new nuclear arms control, and the format for future Strategic Stability Dialogue sessions.”

Neither side disclosed the actual details of what was discussed during the meeting, which had many Ukrainians around the world concerned that Ukraine is being used as a bargaining chip between the two sides. That concern has not subsided. State Department spokesman Ned Price did call the talks “substantive and professional,” and the two sides agreed to hold more high-level discussions in September. For the U.S. side, Mr. Price said on July 28 after the talks concluded that, “We remain committed, even in times of tension, to ensuring predictability and reducing the risk of armed conflict and the threat of nuclear war.”

There have been no reports that Ukraine was discussed during the meeting, though that doesn’t mean the topic didn’t come up. Meanwhile, Ukraine announced that it is restarting a diplomatic initiative that calls for greater international support to end Russia’s illegal occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. That initiative, known as the Crimean Platform, is an effort to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to return the peninsula, which he forcibly seized from Ukraine in 2014. And there is growing concern among experts who follow Russia that Mr. Putin is not finished attacking Ukraine. They fear another outburst of violence will come just as Ukraine celebrates the 30th anniversary of its renewed independence on August 24. We share that concern because we know the Russian president is an opportunist who does not believe Ukraine should be a sovereign, independent state.

Moreover, Ukrainians around the world are rightly still furious that U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancelor Angela Merkel agreed to allow completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is a serious threat to the security of Ukraine and all of Europe.

It clearly benefits Russia. Mr. Biden once called the pipeline a “fundamentally bad deal for Europe” specifically because, in his words, it would “lock in great reliance on Russia [which] will fundamentally destabilize Ukraine.” We are left to wonder what deals have been cut behind closed doors that so drastically changed Mr. Biden’s position on the pipeline. Time will tell.

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