US cautiously welcomes announcement for Russia-Ukraine talks on Belarus border

‘We’ll look forward to what comes out of those discussions,’ Linda Thomas Greenfield said on Sunday

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s Permanent Representative to the UN, addresses the media after the UN Security Council meeting in New York on February 25, 2022. Her Ukrainian counterpart, Sergiy Kyslytsya, is by her side. Getty

The US government cautiously welcomed on Sunday Ukraine’s announcement of talks with Russia on the border with Belarus.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said the talks could present the basis for a return to diplomacy.

“We’ll look forward to what comes out of those discussions,” she told CNN.

“We leaned in on diplomacy with the Russians throughout this process, and we hoped that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would find a way to the negotiating table and he made the unfortunate decision of aggression over diplomacy,” she said.

“But again, this news is another effort by the Ukrainians to find a way forward.”

Ukraine announced on Sunday it would hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus, near the Chernobyl exclusion zone and Pripyat River. The announcement followed a phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

The US ambassador said Washington had “always indicated that we wanted to find a diplomatic solution and Russia chose confrontation”.

Asked about Mr Putin’s order to put Russian nuclear forces on high alert on Sunday, Ms Greenfield described it as another form of Kremlin escalation.

“It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way,” she told CBS News.

Ms Thomas Greenfield said the US would step up its efforts against Moscow.

“It just means that we have to ramp up our efforts here at the UN and elsewhere to hold him [Putin] accountable,” she said.

The US diplomat repeated that the deployment of American combat troops in Ukraine remained off the table, but not additional US troops to Nato countries.

The Joe Biden administration has approved sending about 12,000 troops to Nato’s Eastern flank and Germany in response to the crisis.

Updated: February 27, 2022, 3:57 PM