Russia, the US, Nato: still on a collision course?

The representatives of the US and Russia reiterated their respective positions during the talks on Ukraine in Geneva on Monday: Moscow wants a guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia will not be allowed to join Nato while Washington insists that the Alliance won't end its open door policy. Europe's press speculates on what will happen next - for example at today's meeting of the Nato-Russia Council.

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Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Big-mouth superpower economically fragile

Echo of Moscow fears that Moscow's confrontational policy will result in even more painful sanctions:

“Then it will become clear that a great power that has been under the wise leadership of an outstanding person for 20 years is issuing ultimatums to Nato and then generously allowing it to pack its bags and slink off into the past century - in other words, that this great power makes nothing itself: no telephones, no computers, no dishwashers. ... Even what is made in Russia under Russian brands is full of imported chips and other components. Even our beloved Lada cars are effectively no longer ours. In Putin's Russian limousine, the only thing that is Russian is his chauffeur.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Moscow will exploit US willingness to compromise

The US is no longer willing to play the role of Europe's protector, Phileleftheros comments:

“It is clearly focused on China, which it sees as a threat to its key interests. These interests are almost exclusively in the East Asian region, while Europe and Russia take a back seat. For this reason the US might be willing to make some concessions. For example, US officials have stated that they are prepared to limit the deployment of missiles in Eastern Europe. This could be a sign that they are not prepared to go to extremes in the conflict with the Russians. Moscow will act accordingly. ... It will stretch the bow to the limit in the negotiations.” (UA) /

Beijing watching closely

China will be following the talks very closely, investment banker Serhij Fursa comments on

“The most attentive observer in these negotiations will be China. And the West will have to show China that the US and other countries can protect their allies from lunatic violent criminals. Because if China sees that the West can't protect Ukraine from Russia, it will conclude that no one will stop it from taking Taiwan. That could open Pandora's box. And that's the last thing we need now.”

Válasz Online (HU) /

Putin can count on Orbán

Hungary is trying to dance at two weddings, Válasz Online notes:

“Regarding the negotiations, the question for Hungary is whether it can continue to do a balancing act between its own system of allies [the EU] and a great power that wants to limit our sovereignty. .... No other EU member state combines trade relations with Russia with such fundamental ideological criticism of its own system of allies. ... Against this background, the meeting between the Hungarian prime minister and the Russian president planned for February is a sign that Moscow can count on a Nato and EU member even in times of the most fierce conflict.”

Vzglyad (RU) /

The goal is simply to avoid war

The pro-Kremlin daily Vsglyad says Russia's demands on the West are purely pragmatic:

“Russia's demands on the US and Nato may seem excessive to some or come across as an ultimatum. But it all boils down to one issue: security. The non-expansion of Nato to Ukraine and Georgia, no further advance of Nato forces and weapons across the line where they stood in 1997 (at the time of the signing of the Nato-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security). These regulations are of a pragmatic rather than moral nature. ... Neither side wants war. So let's agree on how to make sure that such a war is not unintentionally triggered during manoeuvres in the Black Sea or a sudden crisis in Donbass or South Ossetia.”

Le Point (FR) /

Negotiations definitely have potential

The West should not be deterred by Putin's exaggerated demands, diplomat Gérard Araud writes in Le Point:

“He knows that the deal he's presented to the West is unacceptable. Is it just a manoeuvre to justify an invasion of Ukraine that has long been a done deal? I don't think so. I myself have noticed in negotiations with Russians in the UN Security Council that they often make extreme demands and then back down during the talks. ... In any case, they've made their basic goals clear: a guarantee that neither Ukraine nor Georgia will join Nato, and probably restrictions on the deployment of US weapons in Europe - something which is after all perfectly negotiable.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Spiralling escalation looms

The daily Die Welt says there are many indications that the talks will fail:

“The West cannot and will not fulfil Putin's key demands. Among other things because China's dictator Xi Jinping, also an ageing revanchist, would take that as an encouraging sign. And then what? If the talks fail it means a loss of face for Putin, and he would probably use this as an excuse to teach the West a lesson and occupy further parts of Ukraine a few months from now. Americans and Europeans would then react with tough sanctions. And the escalation spiral would be complete.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

Russia's problem is not the West

Russia is not primarily concerned with restoring its Cold War spheres of influence, Iltalehti believes:

“There has been speculation that President Putin is seeking to rebuild the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union. However it's more likely that President Putin's strategy is based on securing the autocratic system of leadership and government in Russia and its main partner countries. ... This is not about a confrontation between the political West and Russia, but about the failure of authoritarian, autocratic regimes to deal with current economic and political challenges, such as people's desire for freedom.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

EU is a lame duck

Putin is aware of the weakness of Brussels, Berlin and Paris in the domain of foreign policy, the Salzburger Nachrichten comments:

“The EU has suffered a dramatic loss of power and geopolitical influence in the past ten years. ... To gauge the extent of this loss, consider the Crimea crisis in 2014. It began with the dispute over an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU. The EU exerted great appeal. The US president also had confidence in the Union: Barack Obama left it to Angela Merkel to conduct the negotiations in this 'European affair'. Today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prefers to stick to the US, because he knows that Brussels, Berlin and Paris are lame ducks when it comes to foreign policy.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Moscow has woven a spider's web

El Periódico de Catalunya criticises that Putin is dictating the agenda:

“Within the space of four days, Russia sits alongside the US in Geneva, then at Nato in Brussels, and before the end of the week, Kremlin envoys arrive at the OECD. Russia hasn't been this strategic in its approach since perhaps the Cold War. ... It has woven a spider's web, supported extremist movements across Europe and attacked cyberspace at critical moments. Russia is here to stay. Europe and the US should be clear that [another] war in Ukrainemust be avoided. But no concessions must be made in the process of strengthening common security.” (RO) /

A good opportunity for Putin

For the Kremlin leader, the talks offer the chance to raise his international profile once more, observes:

“In the discussions with Nato in Geneva, Russia could be banking on small but equally important gains for Putin's regime. Officials in Biden's administration have already rejected two of Russia's demands, regarding a ban on Nato accession for Ukraine and a ban on further Nato enlargement to the east. But the negotiations are not a zero-sum game and Putin now has the opportunity to have existing sanctions discussed again, to regain support among the Russian electorate and to divert attention from the problems at home.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Europe and the US disoriented

The West is particularly unprepared at the moment, Corriere della Sera worries:

“America is torn by internal conflicts, with a president who has not managed to recover from the Kabul scandal. Germany has a new government that has yet to chart its course. France is in the middle of an election campaign for the Élysée Palace that is looking increasingly risky for Macron. Italy faces difficult institutional choices. Britain is paying dearly for Brexit. The EU is more divided than ever. In short, the West is going through one of those phases of uncertainty and weakness that inevitably affect strategic choices and response time.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Bleak prospects

The EU states must adopt a unified stance vis-à-vis Russia, Helsingin Sanomat demands:

“Tough sanctions would hit the energy sector, raw materials supply and Swift payment system - and they would also harm the European economy, which is why some EU states are against them. It had been hoped that dialogue and trade would bring Russia closer to the West, but that time has passed. The outlook is bleak and unclear. Amid these uncertainties and out of self-interest, European countries should present a strong common front, but also be prepared for the absence of unity.”

Új Szó (SK) /

The ball is in Berlin's court

Whether the current conflict strengthens or divides Nato depends to a large extent on Germany, writes foreign policy expert Botond Feledy in Új Szó:

“While Poland, the Baltic states and Romania expect Germany and the US to align their positions, the Hungarian government, the Czech president and Serbian prime minister take a different view. ... A more decisive stance by Germany could strengthen unity in the region. ... Perhaps the concentration of Russian troops will thus produce the opposite effect to the one originally intended: instead of dividing the Nato allies, it may even lead to more unity on our side. It would be high time for that.”