Russia Conducts Military Drills by Ukraine, Says U.S. Must Ease Tensions

A top Russian lawmaker has said the onus is on Washington to decrease tensions with Moscow as international talks continue about the Kremlin's build-up of troops by the border with Ukraine.

The comment by Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the State Duma or lower house, follows the news that the Russian military has conducted live-fire exercises close to the border.

The Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday that 3,000 troops, plus 300 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, were deployed across three western Russian regions.

Volodin made the remark on Wednesday, as talks take place in Brussels between NATO and Moscow.

There is international concern that President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion of Russia's neighbor, but talks held in Geneva on Monday between officials from Moscow and Washington ended in deadlock.

Writing on the Telegram encrypted messaging app, Volodin said Moscow's focus for the Geneva talks had been the "non expansion" of the alliance.

Describing how Russia had been "deceived" by U.S. promises in the 1990s not to expand NATO eastwards, Volodin wrote: "Washington is like an elephant in a china shop, destroying the system of ensuring international security" that had been built "to avoid a repeat of World War II."

Volodin also reiterated the Kremlin's criticism of the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty under the administration of former President Donald Trump.

In comments also reported by Russian state media, Volodin said the U.S. should "either support the security measures proposed by our country, or assume the responsibility for the possible consequences of the absence of guarantees."

Hopes for a diplomatic breakthrough were low ahead of the meeting between Russian and NATO officials on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

Russia's demands, including a draft agreement with NATO and the offer of a treaty between Moscow and the United States, are unlikely to be approved by the 30-country alliance.

In exchange for limiting its war games and low-level hostilities, the Kremlin wants NATO to halt all plans to expand its membership—not just with Ukraine—and to scale down its presence in countries close to Russia's borders.

However, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, said it was "crystal clear that not a single ally inside the NATO alliance is willing to budge or negotiate anything as it relates to NATO's open door policy."

Political analysis firm R.Politik noted on its Telegram channel that the U.S. wants to include strategic arms control in the discussions about security guarantees.

Moscow, on the other hand, wants strategic arms control to be kept separate from the question of security guarantees. "The most interesting thing seems to be that Putin himself hasn't decided anything yet," R.Politik said.

Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman
A Ukrainian serviceman on the front line near the village of Luganske, in the country's Donetsk region, on January 11. The image was taken in the week that NATO and Moscow were discussing tensions by the Russian-Ukrainian border. ANATOLII STEPANOV/Getty