Russia warns its patience wearing thin as talks with West hit ‘dead end’

Poland sees threat of all-out war in eastern Europe at highest level for 30 years

Russia has said talks with the West on security issues and tension around Ukraine have hit a "dead end" and warned that it will act to "eliminate unacceptable threats" if it is not satisfied with the US and Nato response to its demands.

Moscow wants Nato to guarantee that it will not admit any more members from eastern Europe and will withdraw troops and armour from the region, and Russia has sent about 100,000 soldiers towards Ukraine in what the West calls possible preparations for all-out war.

Russia denies planning a new, bigger attack on its neighbour, but has vowed to respond with “military-technical” means if the West does not meet demands that Moscow laid out in talks with week with the US, Nato and at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

"There is, to a certain extent, a dead end or a difference in approaches," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday, when diplomats from the 57-nation OSCE gathered in Vienna.


“I do not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions,” he added, complaining that western powers did not want to discuss Moscow’s key demands – that Ukraine and other states near Russia must never join Nato and that the alliance pull back its forces to where they were in 1997.

“We must continue to push determinedly for the right movement and the required evolution from the western side. And we will do that. I repeat, the dialogue does not stop – it is continuing at different levels and along different lines,” Mr Ryabkov said.

Written responses

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was now waiting for written responses from the US and Nato to each of its demands, and hoped to receive them next week: "We will continue in waiting mode, but the wait cannot last long . . . The answer must be quick."

The US and Nato say they are willing to discuss possible limits on missile deployments and on military exercises in Europe, but described Moscow’s call for Nato to bar new members and pull out of eastern states as “non-starters”.

"If we don't hear constructive response to our proposals within reasonable timeframe and aggressive behaviour towards Russia continues, we'll have to take necessary measures to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable threats to our national security," the Russian mission to the OSCE said on Twitter, quoting its ambassador Alexander Lukashevich.

In his opening speech at the OSCE meeting, Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau warned of the "prospect of a major military escalation in eastern Europe."

“It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” he added.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe