Below is a transcript of a press briefing by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, following her seven-hour meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, shorn of redundant diplomatic verbiage à l’américaine such as tedious incantations about peace, security, international norms, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, popular will, reduction of tensions, disarmament, rule of law, etc., precisely when undermining and threatening them.
According to her State Department profile, Sherman, who earned her spurs under then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (popularly known as Madame Tomahawk and Lady Macdeath), claims as her sole academic and (non-on-the-job) professional training for the post of the State Department’s Number 2 receiving a master’s degree in social work several decades ago. By way of comparison, Russia’s Ryabkov graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. But the former reached consensus with the latter that nuclear war is bad. That appears to be the only unequivocal concession Sherman, never a friend of Russia (“deter, defend and act”), was prepared to make to Moscow.
She works immediately beneath Antony Blinken, who will enter the history books – if there are any when he’s done – as the most belligerent and bellicose secretary of state in American history, even outstripping his idols Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright. His credentials? He’s able to brief a Sesame Street character on world affairs and perform a passable cover version of the Steppenwolf rendition of Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man.
The third Foggy Bottom operative behind the U.S. and NATO confrontation with Russia is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. Foreign Service, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, her of donut dispenser and pastry peddler fame during the riots and government overthrow in Ukraine that she directed in 2014.
Regarding Nuland, Sherman and Blinken, to employ the old workplace expression, they sure know how to network.
Briefing with Deputy Secretary Wendy R. Sherman on the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue
About a half an hour ago or so, we concluded the extraordinary session of the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue with the Russian delegation here in Geneva.
We had a frank and forthright discussion over the course of nearly eight hours at the U.S. mission in Geneva.
The United States and Russia agree that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.
We were firm…in pushing back on security proposals that are simply non-starters for the United States. We will not allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s “Open Door” policy, which has always been central to the NATO Alliance. We will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States. And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO. As we say to our allies and partners, “nothing about you without you.”
It bears repeating that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine in 2014. It is Russia that continues to fuel a war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed nearly 14,000 Ukrainian lives. And now it is Russia’s actions which are causing a renewed crisis not only for Ukraine but for all of Europe.
One country cannot change the borders of another by force, or dictate the terms of another country’s foreign policy, or forbid another country from choosing its own alliances.
We’ve made it clear that if Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what they faced in 2014. President Biden said as much to President Putin in their recent call, and I said that plainly to Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov as well. Russia has a stark choice to make.
As in all things, the United States will continue our close coordination with our allies and partners. Since the New Year, President Biden has spoken directly with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Secretary Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba and with EU High Representative Borrell, held a call with the Bucharest Nine, hosted German Foreign Minister Baerbock in Washington, and participated in a virtual meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers, just to name a few of the interactions.
Likewise, in the week before I came to Geneva, I had calls with the Greek and Georgian foreign ministers; with the Spanish state secretary; with the NATO deputy secretary general; with the EEAS Secretary General Sannino and with OSCE Secretary General Schmid; and held a group discussion with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
So we are lashed up at every level with our allies and partners, and we will continue to be in the days and weeks ahead.
Tomorrow morning, very early, I will travel to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and brief the North Atlantic Council. I will also meet again with EEAS Secretary General Sannino, and I will brief the EU’s Political and Security Committee. All of these meetings will take place before the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday, where I will lead the U.S. delegation.
[W]hat we’ve said is if Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what happened in 2014. We are very ready and aligned with our partners and allies to impose those severe costs. You’ve seen statements from NATO, from the G7, from the European Council. We are very well aligned. Those costs will include financial sanctions, and it’s been reported those sanctions will include key financial institutions, export controls that target key industries, enhancement of NATO force posture on allied territory, and increased security assistance to Ukraine.I’m not going to go into any more specific detail, Andrea, although I understand why you’d like it, because we want to make sure that these have impact, they cannot all be anticipated by Russia if we have to impose them, and that they will have the consequences that we know that they can have.
I’m talking about security assistance to Ukraine. As you know, we’ve already provided some security assistance. We continue to do so, and we would increase it. And it’s not just the United States; there are all other governments in Europe who are providing security assistance to Ukraine.
We did not have discussions about American troop levels. In our discussions, I don’t think that is what is on the table. That’s not anticipated. That’s not a topic of conversation….[T]oop levels and American troop levels were not on the agenda for today.
Minister Ryabkov and I know each other very well. We worked on the Syria chemical weapons deal together. We worked on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action together.
Well, certainly if you’ve been listening to Mr. Ryabkov you know more than I do, because I’ve been listening to myself and to you all. But I’m sure that he is saying that Russia believes there should not be any further expansion of NATO. That was very clear from the draft treaty that he – they put forward two draft treaties; one with the United States, the other with NATO. And we were unequivocal: We do not make decisions for other countries. We will not agree that any country should have a veto over any other country when it comes to being part of the NATO Alliance.
Secretary Blinken talk about Russia having two paths that it can choose from. One is the path of diplomacy, which hopefully ensures not only Russia’s security, but ours, our allies’ and partners’. The other is deterrence and cost. And we will do what we must to deter Russia from taking any action that would be untoward toward Ukraine, and that should they do so there will be enormous costs – substantial, significant, and really compelling costs. And it’s really a very stark choice, and one that I suspect only Mr. Putin, President Putin can decide.
Kazakhstan did not come up today, to answer that question quickly. On the idea of neutrality, we have a really critical principle: No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine. Ukraine gets to decide its foreign policy orientation. It gets to decide its future. NATO gets to decide the process for NATO membership and how one goes through that process. No country should have a veto or make decisions for others about their future.