Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the US and Russia are “on a clearer path to understanding each other’s positions” amid tensions over Ukraine — but warned his Kremlin counterpart of a “swift and severe response” if Moscow opts to invade its western neighbor.
Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva for roughly 90 minutes Friday in the latest attempt at diplomacy, more than a week after diplomatic talks involving the two nations and NATO broke down.
During the meeting – which Lavrov called “constructive and useful” – the US reportedly agreed to provide Russia with a written response to their demands that Ukraine be prevented from joining the Atlantic alliance. The US has previously slammed Russia’s demands as a “non-starter.”
Blinken acknowledged that he “didn’t expect any major breakthroughs to happen today,” but affirmed that both countries are “equally committed to the path of diplomacy and dialogue to try and resolve our differences.”
“But we’re also committed, if that proves impossible and Russia decides to pursue aggression against Ukraine, to a united, swift and severe response,” he went on.
Lavrov declined to say whether the meeting would forestall further military aggression from Russia, telling reporters, “I can’t say whether we are on the right track or not. We will understand that when we receive the US written response to all of our proposals.”
Fears have grown in recent months that Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine as approximately 100,000 troops have amassed along the border.
President Biden has promised “severe” economic sanctions if Russia invades, but earlier this week appeared to admit that he believes Putin will do just that and ultimately “prevail.”
“My guess is he will move in, he has to do something,” Biden said during his first solo press conference of 2022.
“I think, as usual, he’s going to …,” Biden later said before pausing for several seconds.
“I probably shouldn’t go any further,” he finally said. “I think we will hurt him badly.”
Friday’s discussion followed meetings between Blinken and his German, UK and French counterparts in Berlin as well as a separate meeting in Kiev Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.