On January 19, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion dedicated to the consultations between representatives of Russia and the West on security guarantees in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna, titled "A three-move game: Will it be possible to avoid zugzwang?" Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and head of the Russian delegation at these talks, attended the discussion and present his views following the results of the first series of consultations with Western partners from the United States, NATO and the OSCE.
Relations between Russia and the West have long been characterised by a lack of mutual trust. In mid-December, Moscow proposed security assurance treaties with the United States and NATO, in which it frankly and clearly outlined its concepts for the strengthening of security near Russia’s borders.
After the first round of Russian-American consultations, it became clear that compelling the US and its partners to legally oblige the organisation to forgo all eastward expansion caused the greatest disagreement between Russia and the United States. For Russia, this issue, according to Sergei Ryabkov, is an "absolute imperative", while the United States considers this condition "impassable".
The Russian side does not exclude that the discussion on security guarantees may be limited to just a few meetings if the Western partners are not ready to compromise on issues that are of the greatest concern to Moscow. However, the very fact that consultations are being held after several years of a growing crisis in relations between Russia and the West is a positive signal.
What will be the main outcome of the negotiations? Are the Western partners ready for a dialogue with Russia? Will Russia be able to defend its interests? Will the West make concessions, and if so, at what cost? Participants answered these and other questions.
- John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago
- Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of Defence (1992-1995) and Foreign Secretary (1995-1997) of the UK
- Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation