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    No More Strong Arm Tactics: US Wants to Mend Relations With Russia

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    The recent visit of US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to Moscow has signaled Washington's readiness to join the Normandy talks on Ukraine, Stratfor pointed out.

    US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland's visit to Moscow "is the latest indicator" that Washington's position on Ukraine and its role in the country's future "may be shifting," the US private intelligence company Stratfor reported.

    "Although US officials have been involved in discussions with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts throughout the conflict, the recent direct high-level negotiations – without the participation of European leaders – signal that Washington wants a larger and more direct role in discussions regarding Ukraine," Stratfor analysts underscored.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
    Indeed, during the past week Washington's officials have held a series of meetings with Russian and Ukrainian leaders. For instance, last week Victoria Nuland had a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Earlier, on May 12, she accompanied Secretary of State John Kerry on his trip to the Russian city of Sochi.

    Washington's latest initiative was aimed at "inserting the United States directly into the complex negotiations."

    Remarkably, the Obama administration has demonstrated that it could shift its stance regarding Russia. In contrast to previous anti-Russia rhetoric, John Kerry and Victoria Nuland evaded the issue of Crimea's status quo or Russia's support for eastern Ukraine, discussing the question of the necessity for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to have a presence on the Ukrainian border.

    According to the analysts, the Russian leadership wants to elicit a number of key concessions from Washington. First and foremost, Moscow is concerned about US military support for Ukraine including the military training mission of American troops in the country and possible supplies of weaponry to Kiev. Russia wants to ensure that the Pentagon will not extend or expand its training mission.

    Simultaneously, the Kremlin "is likely pushing" the United States to curb its military training activities in former Soviet Republics in Russia's periphery, such as Georgia and the Baltic states. Moscow has also repeatedly expressed its deep concerns regarding NATO's military buildup in Eastern European states, such as Poland and Romania.

    "The United States probably is unwilling to compromise on its military training mission to Ukraine, but the US administration could, as it has thus far, avoid providing Ukraine with weapons that add to the country's military capabilities," Stratfor analysts noted.

    However, according to the analysts, "when it comes to sanctions, Washington may be open to compromising." Washington can lift its sanctions when the US administration decides to do so, while EU sanctions can be lifted only in accordance with the decision of all the bloc's member states, the analysts highlighted.

    If Washington decides to abolish its sanctions policy, the lifting of US sanctions will "take place piecemeal, beginning with lighter sanctions such as travel bans on individuals," Stratfor analysts elaborated.

    "The latest flurry of meetings likely does not herald an end to the crisis. However, greater direct US involvement in the negotiations could change the dynamics of the talks," the analysts suggested.

    On the other hand, the Obama administration's initiative has clearly indicated that Washington's "attempts to isolate Russia have failed," as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted.

    Meanwhile, Moscow and Washington have signaled that they both support the full implementation of the Minsk II accord aimed at reconciliation between Kiev and the Donbass region. 

    Related:

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    Tags:
    NATO, negotiations, Minsk agreements, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Petro Poroshenko, Victoria Nuland, Kiev, Crimea, Washington, Moscow, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia
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