Russian and American officials are scheduled to hold discussions in Geneva on Monday, coming amid escalating tensions over thousands of Russian troops that are currently stationed along Ukraine’s border. Blinken previously said the White House is seeking a diplomatic solution with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“It’s clear that we’ve offered him two paths forward,” Blinken told ABC News on Sunday. “One is through diplomacy and dialogue; the other is through deterrence and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine. And we’re about to test the proposition of which path President Putin wants to take this week.”
NATO and Russia are also scheduled to hold negotiations in Brussels next week. Other talks are scheduled around the same time in Vienna.
During Sunday interviews, the top U.S. diplomat signaled that the Biden administration doesn’t anticipate any breakthroughs with the Kremlin on its posture near the Ukrainian border.
“It’s hard to see making actual progress, as opposed to talking, in an atmosphere of escalation with a gun to Ukraine’s head. So, if we’re actually going to make progress, we’re going to have to see de-escalation, Russia pulling back from the threat that it currently poses to Ukraine,” Blinken said on CNN on Sunday.
But he reiterated in the ABC Interview that Russia will face more financial, economic, and other consequences if it “renews its aggression” against Ukraine.
“How we got here is because Russia has committed repeated acts of aggression against its neighbors going back more than a decade: Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in 2014, and now the prospect of doing that again,” Blinken said Sunday.
“To make actual progress, it’s very hard to see that happening when there’s an ongoing escalation, when Russia has a gun to the head of Ukraine with 100,000 troops near its borders,” he added in the ABC interview.
Russian officials, however, said Moscow won’t make any concessions to the United States, warning the talks in the coming days could end early. The state-owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that it was possible that the negotiations could end after a single meeting.
“I can’t rule out anything, this is an entirely possible scenario, and the Americans … should have no illusions about this,” he said. “Naturally, we will not make any concessions under pressure,” said Ryabkov, who will lead the Russian delegation in Geneva, according to Reuters.
It also comes as Russia sent troops to neighboring Kazakstan, an oil-producing former Soviet republic that has especially close ties with Moscow, amid widespread riots and clashes that left police officers dead. Russian state media reported that at least 164 people died over the past week.