U.S., Russia Talks Begin to Avert One of the Biggest Geopolitical Crises Since the Cold War

MOSCOW—Russian and U.S. officials met Monday to discuss the large-scale buildup of Russian troops at Ukraine’s border, as Washington seeks to avert an invasion of the country and defuse one of the most serious geopolitical crises between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Russia has amassed a force of about 100,000 troops near Ukraine, according to U.S. and European officials, in response to what it says is a threat to its own security from the West. The Kremlin has accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of trying to encroach into Russia’s backyard with military ties to Ukraine. It has demanded that NATO halt its outreach to eastern countries including Ukraine.

A military buildup along the Ukrainian border is further straining ties between Russia and the U.S., after clashes over cybercrime, expulsions of diplomats and a migrant crisis in Belarus. WSJ explains what is deepening the rift between Washington and Moscow. Photo Composite/Video: Michelle Inez Simon

The Biden administration has signaled it is unwilling to cede to Moscow’s demands and has threatened retaliation against Russia if it were to invade Ukraine. As a result, the likelihood of a breakthrough on Monday is low, according to officials.

“The American side must prepare for compromises,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister

Sergei Ryabkov,

who is leading the talks for Moscow, told Russian state TV on Monday. “The Russian side came here with a clear position…that there simply cannot be deviations from our approaches,” Mr. Ryabkov said.

Ukrainian forces on the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels near Avdiivka, in the southeast region of Ukraine, on Saturday.


anatolii stepanov/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The U.S. has said it wants dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of the two nations’ differences and avoid a confrontation, but Washington has underscored that it won’t allow Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine to jeopardize European security.

“The U.S. will listen to Russia’s concerns and share our own, but we have been clear, we will not discuss European security without our allies and partners,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

Wendy Sherman,

Washington’s lead negotiator at the talks, tweeted Monday.

To encourage Russian President

Vladimir Putin

to de-escalate the situation, U.S. officials said the Biden administration is prepared to discuss limits on intermediate-range missiles in Europe as well as reciprocal restrictions on the scope of military exercises on the continent.

But Washington has also warned of significant consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression against Ukraine, including economic sanctions.

The U.S.-Russia Talks

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Preliminary negotiations between Moscow and Washington began Sunday evening and were described by Mr. Ryabkov as “complex but businesslike,” Russian news agencies reported.

Discussions will continue on Wednesday in Brussels with officials from NATO and then the following day in Vienna with senior officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Ukraine and Russia are members.

The wrangling over Ukraine comes as Mr. Putin contends with a crisis in neighboring Kazakhstan, where he has deployed troops to help shore up the embattled government following violent protests over social and political discontent. He has signaled that he won’t tolerate any threat to what he views as Russia’s inviolable sphere of influence.

Write to Ann M. Simmons at

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