US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Thursday in Stockholm, Sweden, amid growing concern among Western powers that Russia is seeking to destabilize Ukraine.
Speaking during the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Stockholm, Lavrov warned that NATO’s expansion into the East would affect “fundamental interests” of Russian security.
He stressed that although Russia does “not want any conflicts” with NATO over Ukraine, it maintains the “right to choose ways to ensure its legitimate security interests.”
“And let’s not forget, of course, the proclaimed principle of indivisibility and security, including in the OSCE, in the NATO Council of Russia, which says that no one has the right to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others. And the further advance of NATO to the East will definitely affect the fundamental interests of our security.”
The United States, meanwhile, warned again that there would be “serious consequences” if Russia engages to “pursue confrontation” with Ukraine.
Blinken told summit attendees that the US holds “deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine.”
This aggression would “move us in exactly the opposite direction” Blinken said, stressing “it’s simply not in anyone’s interest.”
He added that “the best way to avert the crisis is through diplomacy,” calling on Russia to abide by the Minsk peace agreements hammered out in 2015 between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany.
The interpretation of this and other core OSCE documents emerged as a sticking point between the two countries, with Lavrov saying it “is clear” that the US and Russia interpret them in “different ways.”
Blinken criticized Russia’s adherence to the Helsinki Final Act, a multilateral agreement dating back to 1975, saying that the country “continues to violate the Helsinki principles and repeatedly obstructs the work of this organization.”
Despite the accusations the two officials recognized the importance of dialogue, with Lavrov acknowledging “the importance of our two states for global stability and for security, including in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
Blinken also held a bilateral meeting Thursday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba, at which the top US diplomat reiterated Washington’s “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and its independence.”
The OSCE summit comes on the heels of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Latvia that was dominated by concerns over recent events in Belarus and Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.
The US and NATO say Russia is increasing the number of combat troops near its border with Ukraine.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that Russia plans to invade Ukraine and sees NATO support for the country as a threat on Russia’s western border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called Wednesday for specific agreements that would rule out any further NATO expansion eastwards and deployment of its weaponry close to Russia’s borders.
On Tuesday, Putin said NATO military expansion close to Russian borders and deploying missile systems in Ukraine would be crossing a “red line” for Russia. In response to the actions of the West that Russia perceives as a threat, the country is developing its own hypersonic missile weapons.
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