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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it comes to understanding the Geneva round of talks between the Russian and US foreign ministries on Monday, it is helpful to read; and if that is unavailing, to ask official sources in a position to know  if and when they are talkative. Actions talk louder than words, especially in war. It is intelligent to be patient and wait.

Going off half-cocked, however, is what Alexander Mercouris,  Bernhard Horstmann,  Scott Ritter,  and many others are doing. Half-cocked at the brothel door is  adolescent.  

Sergei Ryabkov (61 years old) and Wendy Sherman (72), the lead negotiators, are what newspapers call seasoned professionals. Seasoning in their cases refers to the pepper and salt in their hair – and also in their methods of speaking in private and public. Ryabkov was born in Soviet Leningrad; Sherman in a Jewish neighbourhood of Baltimore which her father, an ex-Marine then real estate broker, helped to integrate racially, a story Sherman tells in her autobiography.   Sherman’s book is not a ticket of leave for doing what Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland tell her to say, and no more.* Sherman’s instructions are less Russia hating, more catholic (as she describes her father).

Taking Sherman at her word, therefore —  from what she said in her press briefing after the talks with Ryabkov concluded —  it is possible to conclude that she repeated to Ryabkov all the Blinken-Nuland vetoes and provocations which they have advertised in advance; which the White House, the British and Polish prime ministers, and the Secretary-General of NATO (lead images, left to right) keep repeating as if their lives depend on them.  And their political lives do depend on them.

That also makes them impotent in the war they are threatening against Russia on all fronts – the Donbass, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Syria, Libya, etc.  

However, Sherman made eight points indicating that the “core security interests” which the Russian side has placed at the top of the agenda are now in negotiation with the US. Before you knock on the door, here they are. Read carefully, and watch what comes next.

Sherman’s  Open Door declaration placing Ukraine at qualified third priority:  “We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s “Open Door” policy, which has always been central to the NATO Alliance.  We will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States.  And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO. Source: https://www.dw.com/ 

Full transcript of Sherman’s briefing. Source: https://www.state.gov/

Sherman’s eight points start with her acknowledgment that the two draft treaties comprising Russia’s non-aggression framework for the US and for Europe, presented on December 17 by the Russian Foreign Ministry, should also be read in order to interpret what followed in Geneva on Monday.

Here is the first of the treaties for Russia and the US to negotiate bilaterally:

 Source: https://mid.ru/

Here is the second of the treaties for Russia and NATO to negotiate multilaterally:   

Source: https://mid.ru/

Here is what the treaties mean to the Russian side. 

And now, verbatim, here are Sherman’s Eight Points.

  1. Context: “We did not sit there and go through that draft treaty, but there was certainly reference to it and to articles in it.  So yes, it was very present in the room even if it was not the piece of paper we were working from… We called this an extraordinary session because it took place without the preliminary meetings of the two expert working groups the two sides agreed to create at our last meeting in September…. it was not what you would call a negotiation.  We’re not to a point where we’re ready to set down text and begin to go back and forth.  We, in fact, did not sit there and sort of go through the treaty they put on the table word for word and line by line.”  
  2. Reciprocity: “We came as well with a number of ideas where our two countries could take reciprocal actions that would be in our security interests and improve strategic stability.”    
  3. US nuclear missiles in Poland, Romania, Black Sea: “The preliminary ideas the United States raised today include missile placement… On missile deployment exercises, we put some ideas on the table.  I’m not going to go through any specifics around those ideas.”
  4. Range and flight time of missiles threatening Russia: “We also made clear that the United States is open to discussing the future of certain missile systems in Europe – along the lines of the now defunct INF Treaty between the U.S. and Russia.”
  5. Threats to Russia on land, sea:  “We shared that we are also open to discussing ways we can set reciprocal limits on the size and scope of military exercises, and to improve transparency about those exercises, again on a reciprocal basis.”
  6. No US war for Ukraine, Poland, etc.:  “The United States and Russia agree that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.  We have discussed this shared principle in past SSD [Strategic Stability Dialogue] meetings, and it was reaffirmed last week in a statement by the P5 [UN Security Council — China, France, Russia, UK, US] nations.  That is why the United States has long been interested in discussing with Russia options for arms control that include both strategic and so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons.”
  7. De-escalation on the Donbass front: “We believe genuine progress can only take place in a climate of de-escalation, not escalation.  If Russia stays at the table and takes concrete steps to de-escalate tensions, we believe we can achieve progress.”
  8. Russia’s core security interests understood: “Minister Ryabkov and I know each other very well.  We worked on the Syria chemical weapons deal together.  We worked on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [Iran] together.  We’ve obviously now worked on the SSD in my role as deputy secretary of state.  We know each other very, very well.  So we can be very straight-up with each other to the extent that we can be, knowing that we are here for our national interests and are very loyal to those national interests.”

[*]  They are the Blin-Needle Gang; for more detail, read this.  The use of the Blin-Needle term on this website is being censored by a number of US republication websites.

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