A top US security official in Europe has warned the “drumbeat of war is sounding loud” amid this week’s series of NATO and Russian talks, also as Washington and Brussels continue to condemn Russia’s troop build-up near Ukraine. 

We’re facing a crisis in European security. The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,”  US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said Thursday

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“If the Russians walk away from these talks, it’ll be clear that they were never serious about diplomacy in the first place,” he added. However, the Russian side was miffed when at the very start of talks Monday in Geneva (and subsequent talks in Brussels and Vienna), the US declared its core demand of no more NATO eastward expansion to be a “non-starter” in the talks.

The US side is still standing by this, also recently accusing Moscow of using its troop placement near Ukraine – said to be up to 100,000 – in order to present “ultimatums” to the West. Further, Carpenter presented the US side as having extended an open hand of dialogue, which officials on both sides have stopped far short of recognizing as “negotiations” on any level. 

“We’re prepared to extend, we have already extended a hand, to offer a serious genuine dialogue,” the envoy added. So for now, after Thursday’s talks wrapped of the week of three meetings, the key question remaining is whether the dialogue will be extended. “We’re going to have to see if the Russians are prepared to engage,” Carpenter concluded. But it remains that

…the US has approached the three meetings seriously but would not negotiate “core principles” that are being demanded by the Russian side, such as the option for any country to propose application to NATO and other discussions around bilateral security discussions and alliances.  

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has come away from this week’s engagement with NATO, the US, and even Ukraine officials (in Vienna) saying it’s led to a healthy airing of demands but has hit a “dead end”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who has led the Russian delegation in the three meetings, appeared to dismiss the possibility of ongoing discussions, reportedly saying in a press briefing after the OSCE session on Thursday that he saw “no grounds” to continue the talks.  

“There is, to a certain extent, a dead end or a difference in approaches,” Ryabkov said, citing no real flexibility coming from the US side. “I do not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start these same discussions.” The Russian delegation said that proposals from the West for grounds to continue talks would be submitted to President Putin for further consideration, but struck a pessimistic tone.

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According to commentary from Rabobank

Russia says recent talks with NATO were a failure; US Senator Rubio states it is “almost certain” Putin will move on parts of Ukraine “very soon”; US National Security Advisor Sullivan says he is “taking stock” and is trying to prevent a “potentially massive” Russian invasion; the Director of Russian Studies at CAN says “Russian preparations for an operation are steadily advancing. Support and logistics trickling in, formations with personnel sent from Eastern MD. The outlook, in my view, has grown worse.”; NATO head Stoltenberg says Sweden and Finland will be accepted into the organisation “very quickly” if they decide to join; Der Spiegel reports NATO is preparing for even worse scenarios, such as an armed conflict with the West beyond Ukraine; and the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister suggests Moscow could send troops to Venezuela and Cuba if it does not get what it wants.