A group of Russian experts urged National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to send more weapons to Ukrainians after he spoke with them ahead of this week’s high-level diplomatic meetings with Russian officials, participants told Nerdshala.
Why this matters: Seeking advice from hawkish pockets in foreign policy setting, including those who served under former President Trump, the Biden administration is considering all options to discourage Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine – and if he does. punish him.
- “It’s always smart to engage with outsiders. There’s no shortage of it,” said Michael McFall, an official on the National Security Council under President Obama who later served as ambassador to Russia.
- “Jake isn’t afraid to chat with experts, including those who may disagree with him,” said McFall, who declined to confirm last Monday’s videoconference or his involvement in it.
- NSC spokeswoman Emily Horn told Nerdshala that officials regularly meet with experts from outside Russia with a wide variety of views and “welcome their expertise as we address this crisis.”
Between the lines: Private meetings can also deter potential critics from publicly airing their grievances – and second guessing – if a diplomatic engagement falters.
Running news: With an estimated 100,000 Russian forces assembled On three sides of UkraineThe US and Russia will hold bilateral talks in Geneva on Monday.
- Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who clashed with her Russian counterpart during the 2015 Iran nuclear deal talks, will lead the US team.
- Those talks will be followed by a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on Wednesday, and then a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday in Vienna.
What are they saying: “It can’t be said enough: As we talk this week, ‘Nothing about Europe without Europe’ is our North Star,” Sullivan told Nerdshala.
- “We know that part of the Russian strategy is to try to divide us from our transatlantic allies and partners and sow discord and doubts about how we’re going to negotiate as the talks go on. That dog won’t hunt.” “
big picture: Russia wants to prevent any future NATO expansion – particularly to Ukraine – and to halt all military activity in the former Soviet republics along its European border.
- those extremist demands, which NATO swiftly rejected, has set a pessimistic tone for this week’s talks.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that proposing non-starters under the pretext of aggressive action is part of Russia’s “playbook” when talks inevitably fail.
Behind the scenes: Senior Biden administration officials say there are several areas of Russian concern that the US would be willing to discuss on a “reciprocal” basis.
- These include new restrictions on missiles and the size and scope of military exercises in Europe.
- Officials strongly denied an NBC report last week saying the US was cutting troop levels in Europe. They insist that it is not on the table.
- He also stressed that “there will be no firm commitment to these talks,” and urged journalists to “not fall for a Russian spin” or lie about what happened behind closed doors.
what to watch: for the first time, US detailed last week What sanctions are being considered if the talks fail and Russia goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.
- The measures include cutting off the largest Russian financial institutions and banning exports of US technology essential to Russian defense and consumer industries.
- They also include potentially arming Ukrainian rebels, although Biden previously assured Putin that he had no intention of deploying unpleasant missile systems in Ukraine
- In contrast to the Obama administration’s response after Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, these sanctions will target high-impact sectors of the Russian economy from the start.
go in: Sullivan’s Zoom meeting with Russia’s group of Hawkes follows scholars, diplomats and former generals wrote a public letter The US was called upon to provide Ukraine with additional military equipment – including more Javelin and Stinger missiles.
- “The most important thing the West can do now is to rapidly provide military support and equipment to the deterrent strength of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he wrote.
- The letter, conducted by John Herbst, former US ambassador to Ukraine and now senior director of the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center, included McFaul; Retired General Wesley Clark; Retired General Philip Breedlov; Strobe Talbot, former Deputy Secretary of State; Kurt Volker, Trump’s Special Representative to Ukraine; and Danielle Fried, former US ambassador to Poland.
Bottom-line: The group ended the meeting reassured that Sullivan was clear about the threats and potential responses available to the US government and NATO.
- “I can’t confirm a possible Zoom call,” Fried said. “I would say Jake is a lot smarter and able to put himself in a box.”