By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - There will be no progress with Russia amid simmering tensions with the West so long as Moscow continues to hold a "gun pointed to Ukraine's head," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the State Department alongside German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the top US diplomat maintained Washington remains "absolutely committed" to pursuing a diplomatic resolution alongside its European allies, but said the success of looming talks with Russia requires de-escalation from the Kremlin.
"If they're going to bear fruit, if they're going to show real progress, that will require de-escalation. It is very hard to make actual progress in any of these areas in an atmosphere of escalation and threat," he told reporters.
The US and its European allies have warned of massive consequences should Russia renew hostilities against Ukraine and invade the eastern European country. Moscow has continued to amass its forces on its border with Ukraine, but has denied it is preparing for an invasion.
Blinken's warning comes ahead of a series of key diplomatic meetings between the West and Russia. US and Russian delegations led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov will meet in Geneva beginning on Jan. 9 followed by the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council for the first time since 2014 on Jan. 12.
Russia seized and occupied the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, and remains the de facto authority there. Moscow also that year began to support separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained over the past eight years.