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U.S.-Russia Talks Have Echoes of the Cold War

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The depth of the hole was evident in the public feedback of Sergei A. Ryabkov, the Russian deputy overseas minister, earlier than he went to dinner Sunday evening with Wendy R. Sherman, the deputy secretary of state. He barely talked about Ukraine. Russia’s purpose, he mentioned, was far bigger — and the Americans, he argued, had a “lack of understanding” about Moscow’s strategic targets.

“We need to assure the curtailing of the destructive NATO activities that have been taking place for decades and bring NATO back to positions that are essentially equivalent to what was the case in 1997,” Mr. Ryabkov mentioned. “But it is precisely on these issues that we hear least of all any readiness on the part of the American side and NATO to come to an agreement.”

He didn’t select the yr 1997 by likelihood. That was the yr of the “NATO-Russia Founding Act,” which in the Clinton Administration’s phrasing envisioned “an enduring and robust partnership between the Alliance and Russia.” The settlement made clear, the State Department mentioned at the time, that Russia didn’t have a veto over alliance selections and that NATO membership would “remain open to all emerging European democracies.”

Since then, 15 nations have joined the NATO alliance, over Russia’s more and more strident objections. And whereas there may be little likelihood that Ukraine would qualify for membership for years to come back, Mr. Putin has made clear that it’s not sufficient to easily present an assurance that Ukraine, which he considers half of the coronary heart of the previous Soviet empire, would by no means be part of NATO.

Mr. Putin additionally needs to make sure that the West’s arms and troops are banished from the former Soviet states. The worry amongst Western officers is that any such retreat would endanger these democracies, and allow Mr. Putin to amp up his technique of intimidation — through menace of invasion, election manipulation, cyberattack or different kinds of coercion.

Mr. Ryabkov mentioned on Sunday that he was intent on negotiating “dynamically, without pauses,” to forestall the West from “putting the brakes on all this and burying it in endless discussions.” Which, of course, is precisely what Washington and its European allies wish to do: decelerate the course of whereas they attempt to negotiate a withdrawal of the 100,000 or so Russian troops now massing on three sides of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin, Pentagon strategists imagine, is aware of his window is restricted: His battalions can solely mount a serious invasion in the depths of winter, when the floor is frozen sufficient roll tanks and armored personnel carriers throughout the border. By April, mud season units in.