Diplomacy between East and West, between Russia and the US-led Western bloc, is teetering on the brink. Russia said on Thursday that talks with the West had so far failed in resolving serious differences over the Ukraine issue and Moscow’s demands that Nato pull back from central and eastern Europe.
There seems to be a fundamental difference in both parties’ understanding of the need for talks. While Russia is preoccupied with Ukraine and Nato expansion, for the US and its allies, that seems to be a non-starter. Their focus is arms control, missile deployments and confidence-building measures. US has gone as far as to ask its allies to ‘not give in to Russian blackmail’.
The talks come as Russia has amassed 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine. The US is concerned that an invasion of Ukraine is imminent, and for Europe there’s the added fear of an emboldened Russia on its eastern border.
From the Russian perspective, the West has been at it since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Expansion has reached Russian borders and a newly assertive Moscow seems determined to draw a red line — any move to admit Ukraine into Nato. Russia is also adamantly opposed to the West basing missiles there. Tensions are so high that Poland has warned that the threat of war is more now than ever before in the last 30 years.
Such is the tempo that Russia has threatened military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the United States continue to rise.
For its part, the West takes a dim view of what it sees as Russian transgressions, and the US has threatened extreme sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine and will be prepared to impose them on leading officials if military action is taken against Ukraine.
Both sides need to take a step back, and try to take the other’s viewpoint into serious consideration. According to a document they signed in 1997, Nato and Russia seek a ‘common space of security and stability’, without dividing lines or spheres of influence limiting the sovereignty of any state.
They should both go back to the spirit of that document. The might-is-right approach should be made a thing of the past. The world has changed too much for another Cold War.