Meeting with Nuland produced ‘some measured results’ but American ‘ultimatums’ still a problem, Russian deputy FM tells RT

Talks with US diplomat Victoria Nuland led to some progress, but Washington’s insistence on impossible embassy staffing levels remains an obstacle in relations with Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov spoke to RT on Wednesday, after meeting with the US deputy secretary of state. Nuland’s visit has attracted attention by itself, since she had to be taken off the Russian sanctions list – in exchange for the US doing the same for a Russian diplomat – but there were also tangible results, Ryabkov said.

“We have also produced some measured results,” he told RT, “in [the] form of agreeing to consult further at a lower level” to deal with the most pressing issues on the “extraordinarily difficult, troubling, agenda that we face.”

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Ryabkov chose to highlight the issue on which little progress was made, however: the US insistence on diplomatic staffing levels.

“One of the problems we see now is an endless – endless! – series of American demands, I would call them ultimatums, for us to adjust our diplomatic presence in the US according to their wishes,” he told RT. 

The fact that the UN headquarters is in US territory means that Russia can’t reduce the number of its diplomats any further. Washington, meanwhile, is refusing to staff its embassy in Moscow – which can’t hire local staff due to Russian counter-sanctions – and has in effect stopped processing visas for thousands of Russian citizens.

The US is refusing to see the obvious, that they can “absolutely” have the required number of diplomatic staff and process visas, Ryabkov told RT. “There is no flexibility, they only want us” to reduce our levels.

Therefore we said, this is the road to nowhere.

If this continues, Russia may even “freeze the function” of diplomatic missions in both countries, which is a solution Moscow does not want and has warned against, but that may be inevitable due to US intransigence, he explained.

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US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland reacts while walking out of the headquarters of Russia's Foreign Ministry after talks with Russian officials in Moscow, Russia October 12, 2021. © REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov
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However, Ryabkov was optimistic on the prospects that a lower-level expert committee could make progress on “bilateral irritants,” and said the US and Russia can cooperate productively on many issues, from cybersecurity to regional security in the Korean peninsula, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, as well as trade and investment.

Moscow has clearly briefed the US on its position regarding strategic arms control, with the eye on replacing the New START treaty within the next four years. The Biden administration is still reviewing the US nuclear doctrine, however, so it’s “way too early to say” what they might do.

“We will see further down the road how serious the US is,” Ryabkov told RT.

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(L) Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak © REUTERS / Denis Balibouse; (R) US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland © REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz
Kremlin says US & Russia agree Ukraine must give Donbass special autonomous status as Nuland hails productive meeting in Moscow

Nuland, best known in Russia for handing out pastries to protesters in Ukraine in 2014 and cursing the EU in a recorded phone call, arrived in Moscow this week for a three-day working visit. In addition to Ryabkov, she met with Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin.

One of these meetings addressed the conflict in south-east Ukraine, where two regions broke off after the US-backed politicians took power in Kiev by force. 

“A thorough and constructive dialogue took place regarding the settlement of the conflict in south-east Ukraine,” Dmitry Kozak, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff, told the Russian daily Kommersant. “During the talks, the US confirmed its position…that significant progress toward the settlement of the conflict is unlikely without any agreement on future parameters of Donbass autonomy. In other words, giving the region a special status within Ukraine.”

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