A top Russian diplomat declined to rule out the possibility of the Kremlin deploying troops to Cuba and Venezuela amid ongoing tensions with the US over Ukraine.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia’s RTVI TV Thursday that Moscow’s next steps “all depends on the action by our US counterparts” and noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Moscow could take military-technical measures against what it deems provocation by Washington.
Ryabkov’s warning followed negotiations between Russia and the US in Geneva Monday, which preceded talks between Russian and NATO officials in Vienna Wednesday over Moscow’s demands that the Atlantic alliance halt its expansion and commit to barring Ukraine from ever joining.
The discussions did little to narrow the gap between East and West, with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman calling Russia’s demands “non-starters.”
Ryabkov claimed that the US and NATO’s stance indicated a “dead end of difference of approaches,” and added that Russia saw no reason to restart similar talks in the coming days.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also labeled the talks “unsuccessful,” but did say there were “some positive elements and nuances” that took place.
“The talks were initiated to receive specific answers to concrete principal issues that were raised, and disagreements remained on those principal issues, which is bad,” Peskov told reporters, warning that US-Russia relations could suffer a complete break if Congress moves forward with proposed sanctions targeting Putin and other important Russian leaders.
The Senate is debating two sanctions bills put forward separately by Republicans and Democrats in order to punish Russia if it chooses to invade Ukraine. Approximately 100,000 Russian troops have massed along the country’s western border over the past several months, leaving many fearing an incursion similar to when Moscow annexed Crimea eight years ago.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced his sanctions proposal last year and the measure will be voted on later Thursday. Democrats and the White House have criticized the legislation, which would put sanctions in place 15 days after approval, regardless of whether Moscow invades Ukraine.
A State Department spokesperson told The Post Wednesday that Cruz’s proposal “will undermine our efforts to deter Russia and remove leverage the United States and our allies and partners possess in this moment all to score political points at home. And it would come at a moment where we need to be closely united with our European partners, including Germany. It makes no sense.”
The Democratic sanctions bill, sponsored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), would impose sanctions similar to those put forth by Cruz — including actions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — but predicates them on a Russian invasion.
“This legislation makes it absolutely clear that the US Senate will not stand idly by as the Kremlin threatens a re-invasion of Ukraine,” Menendez said in a statement, adding that the “most effective sanction on Russia is a strong and unified Ukraine.”
Peskov slammed the sanction proposals as an attempt to pressure Russia.
“It concerns sanctions, which taking into account the inevitable adequate response, effectively amount to an initiative to rupture relations,” he said.
Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade its neighbor, with Ryabkov saying this week: “There is no reason to fear some kind of escalatory scenario.”
“It’s hardly possible for NATO to dictate to us where we should move our armed forces on the Russian territory,” Peskov said Thursday, adding that Moscow was willing to continue negotiations so long as they produced results.