American, Russian diplomats to meet over security concerns as tension with Ukraine mounts

Senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot reports the latest on the bilateral tension.

Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced caution over drawing his country into any conflict even as he confirmed that the Russian military conducted a hypersonic missile test Thursday night. 

During a four-hour marathon news conference Thursday, Putin insisted that Russia wishes to avoid conflict over Ukraine, but he asked for other nations to provide “immediate” assurances. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses an extended meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry Board at the National Defense Control Center in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. The Russian president on Tuesday reiterated the demand for guarantees from the U.S. and its allies that NATO will not expand eastward, blaming the West for current tensions in Europe. 
(Mikhail Tereshchenko, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“You must give us guarantees, and immediately – now,” he said regarding a proposal Russia handed to the United States this month in a move to defuse tensions over Ukraine. Satellite imagery released last month showed Russia amassing over 100,000 troops at the border. 

Putin claimed the U.S. had responded positively to the security proposal and said he was hopeful about negotiations next year in Geneva, Reuters reported. 

U.S. President Joe Biden holds virtual talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin amid Western fears that Moscow plans to attack Ukraine, during a secure video call from the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2021. The White House/Handout via REUTERS.

“We are also prepared to discuss them [security guarantees] on the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] platform. I hope this initial positive response and the announcement that this work could possibly start in the near future, during the first days of January, would enable us to move ahead,” Putin said. 

Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev said he believed such talks will prove fruitful for global stability, calling it “necessary” to expand the agenda and tackle “difficult moments.” 

In this photo taken from video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, a new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched by the frigate Admiral Gorshkov of the Russian navy from the White Sea, in the north of Russia, Russia, Monday, July 19, 2021. The Russian military has reported another successful test launch of a new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the launch took place on Monday from an Admiral Groshkov frigate located in the White Sea, in the north of Russia. The ministry said the missile successfully hit a target more than 350 kilometers (217 miles) away on the coast of the Barents Sea. 
(Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

But even as Putin talked of defusing tensions he confirmed Friday that Russia tested a hypersonic missile, which he lauded as a part of a new generation of unrivaled arms systems, Interfax reported.

Hypersonic weapons tests have driven new tensions in global negotiations as nations acknowledge them as the new measure of military capability. 

Russia previously tested its Zircon hypersonic weapon in November, hitting a practice target some 215 nautical miles away, Defense News reported.

A Biden administration official told reporters that the U.S. will provide a full response to Russia’s proposals in January. 

“I expect we will have our substantive response in those (January) talks…. clearly there are some things that have been proposed that we’ll never agree to,” the official, who requested to remain anonymous, told reporters. “I think the Russians probably know that on some level. I think there are other areas where we may be able to explore what’s possible.” 

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