Russia and US talks may have ended with no end

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Russia and US talks may have ended with no end

The Guardian's world affairs editor assesses the outcome of three rounds of talks this week about the fate of Ukraine, Russia, the US, Nato and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE Did the talks achieve anything?

The Russians described them as a dead end The gap between what the US and its allies were about to talk about reciprocal limits on missiles and military exercises and other confidence-building measures and what Moscow was demanding that Ukraine and other former Soviet bloc states would never join Nato was as wide at the end of the week as it was at the beginning of the week. At least the possibility of finding common ground has been tested, and diplomacy is given a chance.

Is there any clarity about what Russia wants?

It is clear now that Russia is not using its troop build-up and its demands about Nato as a bluff to achieve gains on other matters. The three meetings this week have provided opportunities for Russia to find a face-saving solution, but Moscow has not taken them. There is little doubt that Vladimir Putin is trying to achieve a transformation in European security, with a much-reduced Nato presence along its borders.

Russian officials on Thursday did not make it sound like there was much appetite for further discussions in Moscow. The Poles suggested an increase in the dialogue on security issues within the framework of the OSCE, but the Russians have said they want a quick resolution, rather than an ongoing process of airing grievances. Ukraine has suggested a summit to address the crisis, this time with Kyiv at the table, but there has not been a response from Moscow.

The diplomats go back to their capitals to discuss the next steps. All eyes will be on Moscow and the movements of Russian troops and armour in the region around Ukraine. The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is due to give a press conference on Friday. That should give a clearer idea of Putin's state of mind. The Russians have demanded that the US be given written comments on the draft agreements that Moscow published in December, which included the proposed limits on Nato. Is there going to be war after the talks?

The number of people increased. The probability that Putin would use Ukraine's pressure to get something else was always small. It has disappeared now. It is clearer that the US and its allies are not ready to offer a fudge on Ukraine's Nato membership, acknowledging that it is unlikely for the foreseeable future. We know that Putin is ready to go to the very brink of war after this week.