PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are advancing far different proposals on how to calm tensions and de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine as Russia continues to mass troops along its border with the former Soviet republic.
As Kerry called for Moscow to begin an immediate pullback of the troops, he also ruled out discussion of Russia’s demand for Ukraine to become a loose federation unless Ukrainians are at the table.
While the United States and Russia agreed the crisis in Ukraine requires a diplomatic resolution, four hours of talks Sunday between Kerry and Lavrov failed to break a tense East-West deadlock over how to proceed.
“The Russian troop buildup is creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine,” Kerry told reporters at the home of the U.S. ambassador to France after the meeting, which was held at the Russian ambassador’s residence and included a working dinner. “It certainly does not create the climate that we need for dialogue.”
The U.S. views the massing of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, ostensibly for military exercises, along the border as an attempt to intimidate Ukraine’s new leaders after Russia’s annexation of the strategic Crimean peninsula, as well as a bargaining chip with the United States and the European Union, which have condemned Crimea’s absorption into Russia and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials.
Even if the troops remain on Russian soil and do not enter Ukraine, they create a negative atmosphere, Kerry said.
“The question is not one of right or legality,” he said. “The question is one of strategic appropriateness and whether it’s smart at this moment of time to have troops massed on the border.”