US, Russia have 'better understanding' following meeting

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Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday said the U.S. and Russia have a better understanding of each other's concerns and priorities following a meeting between the two sides in Geneva triggered by Moscow's military buildup on Ukraine's border.

Sherman, the number two diplomat in the State Department, spoke with reporters after the conclusion of eight hours of talks with Russian officials.

"The United States came to today's extraordinary meeting prepared to hear Russia's security concerns and to share our own," she said.

"Today was a discussion, a better understanding of each other and each other's priorities and concerns."

The Geneva meeting, which took place under the framework of the Strategic Stability Dialogue, was scheduled in response to Russia's massing of more than 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine and calls for the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to agree to Moscow's security demands - published in the form of two draft treaties.

The Strategic Stability Dialogue was first agreed to in June by President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin as a forum for Washington and Moscow to directly address security concerns and possible solutions. This week's discussion is the third meeting for the group, which previously met in July and September.

U.S. officials have balked at Russia's effort to force treaty ultimatums with the threat of military force, reinforcing diplomacy as the only way forward and raising possible areas of cooperation.

"If Russia stays at the table and takes concrete steps to deescalate tensions, we believe we can achieve progress," Sherman said. She reiterated potential actions that the U.S. and allies are prepared to take if Russia launches an invasion.

"Those costs will include financial sanctions, and it's been reported those sanctions will include key financial institutions, export controls that target industries; enhancements of NATO force posture on ally territory; and increased security assistance to Ukraine," Sherman said.

Sherman said the U.S. proposed ideas where the two countries could take "reciprocal action" that would have a shared security interest, including discussions about "reciprocal limits" on the size and scope of military exercises in Europe and to "improve transparency" around those exercises.

Sherman also said the U.S. told Russia that it is open to discussing the future of certain missile systems in Europe related to the former Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which former President Trump withdrew from in 2018 following Russian violations.

"The Russians addressed the concerns that we had that led to the ultimate demise of the INF Treaty," Sherman said.

Monday's talks are the first of three meetings taking place in Europe this week between Russian officials and the U.S. and its allies and partners in Europe. The talks are intended to stave off the possibility of Russia launching a war against Ukraine.

Sherman will next travel to Brussels to brief NATO allies on the bilateral talks with Russia, ahead of a meeting of the Russia-NATO council on Wednesday, and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday.

Sherman said the U.S. is ready to continue discussions on bilateral issues and said her Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, agreed that "negotiations on complex topics like arms control cannot be completed in a matter of days or even weeks," pushing back on Russian calls to "move swiftly," Sherman said.

"We must give diplomacy and dialogue the time and space required to make progress on such complex issues," she said.

--Updated at 2:15 p.m.