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Russia, US to draw red lines over Ukraine, Belarus during Nuland's Moscow visit — expert

Concrete agreements that the sides might try to conclude will concern "Russia-US rivalry in the post-Soviet space," Dmitry Suslov noted

MOSCOW, October 11. /TASS/. Russia and the United States will draw red lines for each other to abide by regarding the situations in Ukraine and Belarus, as US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visits Moscow. The main aim of her current trip is to stabilize Moscow-Washington relations at the current level, Dmitry Suslov, the Deputy Director at the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies (CCEIS) of the Higher School of Economics and expert of the Valdai Discussion Club, told TASS on Monday.

"I believe that the two sides will be discussing red lines in Ukraine and Belarus first and foremost. They will draw these lines for each other to warn that crossing them would be undesirable because otherwise a further worsening of relations will be imminent," Suslov said.

He recalled that in Moscow, Nuland would not only hold talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and presidential international affairs aide Yuri Ushakov, but also meet with deputy chief of the presidential staff Dmitry Kozak, who is in charge of the post-Soviet Ukrainian track of Russia's foreign policy and Russia's chief negotiator in the trilateral group for Ukraine.

"The meeting with Kozak indicates that Ukraine and the situation in the post-Soviet space will certainly be on the agenda. US President Joe Biden's main interest is if not to settle this crisis (Russia and the United States adhere to antagonistic viewpoints as to how to go about this business), but at least to achieve stabilization and prevent any further escalation of this conflict," Suslov said.

He believes that Nuland's Russian partners in negotiations will review all key issues on the agenda of Russian-US relations, including strategic stability and cybersecurity among others.

"The sides will surely discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Central Asia in general following the Taliban's rise power," he said. (The Taliban is outlawed in Russia - TASS). "On the list of other issues likely to be examined are nuclear non-proliferation, including Iran's nuclear program and the chances for restoring the Comprehensive Joint Plan of Action for a settlement over the Iranian nuclear program in some way, and North Korea's nuclear problem. Space and the Arctic will probably be touched upon - Russia currently holds the rotating presidency of the Arctic Council.

Concrete agreements that the sides might try to conclude will concern "Russia-US rivalry in the post-Soviet space," Suslov believes. "We are unlikely to hear anything about such agreements in public, but given both parties' wish to see no escalation, some red lines will certainly be discussed and identified," he explained.

Stabilization of confrontation

Suslov believes that Nuland will be keen to ensure "further stabilization of the Russian-US confrontation and relations in general at the current level" and to prevent by all means an escalation of the current crises that Moscow and Washington are involved in.

"This would perfectly match the Biden-led administration's policy of freezing the Russian-US confrontation where it is at the moment and to focus the main resources on the Chinese track, on containing China, on consolidating an anti-Chinese coalition and on persuading Asian and European countries to join in," Suslov said.

Russia's consent to Nuland's visit (she had been blacklisted in retaliation for US sanctions) indicates both sides' interest in maintaining working relations between the capitals and "moderating the Russian-US confrontation."

"In this connection, the two sides displayed certain flexibility. I would not say they made concessions. This merely confirms that we are interested in working, normal (albeit hostile) and sensible interaction with the United States. This is a very long stride forward and a considerable positive development in contrast to what Russian-US relations were during the Donald Trump presidency. Those relations were not just confrontation-like. They were fundamentally insane. The dialogue as such between Russia and the United States was seriously impeded," Suslov concluded.

Nuland arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian officials. Her visit will last till October 13. Preparations were accompanied by a discussion of the visa aspect of the issue because in 2014 Nuland was included in a sanction list in retaliation for US sanctions. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that in exchange for Russia's consent to Nuland's visit some Russian officials were removed from the US blacklist, too.

A diplomatic source told TASS earlier that Nuland's meeting with Ryabkov was scheduled for October 12. A source at the Russian presidential staff said that the chief of the presidential staff, Dmitry Kozak, is to meet with Nuland on October 13. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Nuland would also meet with Russian presidential aide for international affairs Yuri Ushakov, but did not say when.