Blinken, Lavrov Meet at G-20, Discuss Ukraine Conflict and New START Treaty
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a brief encounter on Thursday at the Group of 20 (G-20) foreign ministers meeting in New Delhi, India. This is the first face-to-face interaction between the two diplomats since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. During their meeting, Blinken urged Russia to reverse its irresponsible decision and return to implementing the New START nuclear arms control treaty, placing verifiable limits on the nuclear arsenals of both countries. He also disabused Lavrov of any idea that U.S. support for Ukraine would waver, and pressed Russia to release American Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned by the Kremlin.
The discussion lasted less than 10 minutes, during which Blinken reiterated that the U.S. would provide military and economic assistance to Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” He also urged Russia to rejoin the New START treaty and release Whelan. Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that Lavrov and Blinken spoke as they were “on the move” at the G20 meeting, but did not hold negotiations or a meeting.
The U.S. has recently announced another large tranche of weapons to Ukraine, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged more U.S. economic aid. Relations between the two countries have collapsed over the war, with the U.S. slapping thousands of sanctions on Russia, while militarily, economically, and diplomatically supporting Ukraine.
This is the first interaction between Blinken and Lavrov since their phone discussion in July about the US plan for Russia to free Whelan and former prisoner Brittney Griner of the WNBA. Blinken has also been in the same room as Lavrov in international gatherings, such as a G-20 meeting last year in Indonesia, but the two did not engage in a one-on-one conversation.
India, which holds the rotating chair of the G-20 this year, had hoped the war in Ukraine would not dominate proceedings at the meetings of the group's foreign ministers and instead focus on some of the issues more pertinent to the Global South such as climate change, food security, inflation and debt relief. However, it appears that the conflict in Ukraine is still a pressing issue between the U.S. and Russia.
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