The United States and Russia agreed Sunday that the crisis in Ukraine requires a diplomatic resolution, but four hours of talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov failed to break a tense East-West deadlock over how to proceed.
Sitting face-to-face but not seeing eye-to-eye on any of the most-critical issues, Kerry and Lavrov advanced far-different proposals on how to calm tensions and de-escalate the situation, particularly as Russia continues to mass troops along its border with the former Soviet republic. As he called for Moscow to begin an immediate pullback of the troops, Kerry also ruled out discussion of Russia’s demand for Ukraine to become a loose federation until-and-unless Ukrainians are at the table.
The U.S. believes the massing of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, ostensibly for military exercises, along the border is at once an attempt to intimidate Ukraine’s new leaders after Russia’s annexation of the strategic Crimean peninsula and to use as a bargaining chip with the U.S. and the European Union, which have condemned Crimea’s absorption into Russia and imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials.
U.S. officials said Kerry proposed a number of ideas on troop withdrawals from the border and that Lavrov, while making no promises, told him he would present the proposals to the Kremlin.
Lavrov did not address the troop issue. Instead, he made the case for Moscow’s idea of Ukraine as a federalized nation.