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US open to talks with Russia on exercises, missile deployments: official

With crucial talks set to start on
Monday in Geneva, the senior Biden administration official said the United
States is not willing to discuss limits on US troop deployments or the US force
posture in NATO countries in the region.

President Joe Biden has warned Russia
will face severe economic consequences if Russian President Vladimir Putin were
to launch an invasion of Ukraine. US officials on Saturday provided more
details on tough sanctions that could be imposed.

One restriction, as described by a source
familiar with the plan, could target critical Russian industrial sectors,
including defence and civil aviation, and would invariably hit Russia’s
high-tech ambitions, such as in artificial intelligence or quantum computing,
or even consumer electronics.

The Geneva talks, to be followed by
other sessions next week in Brussels and Vienna, are aimed at averting a
crisis. Putin has massed tens of thousands of troops along the border with
Ukraine, generating fears of an invasion.

It remained unclear whether the United
States and its European allies can make progress in the talks with Moscow.
Putin wants an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and security guarantees,
demands the United States says are unacceptable.

But the senior US official, briefing
reporters ahead of the talks, said some areas present opportunities for common
ground.

“Any discussion of those
overlapping areas where we might be able to make progress would have to be
reciprocal,” the official said. “Both sides would need to make
essentially the same commitment.”

Russia says it feels threatened by the
prospect of the United States deploying offensive missile systems in Ukraine,
even though Biden has assured Putin he has no intention of doing so.

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“So this is one area where we may
be able to reach an understanding if Russia is willing to make a reciprocal
commitment,” the official said.

The United States is also willing to
discuss restrictions by both sides on military exercises, the official said.

“We are willing to explore the
possibility of reciprocal restrictions on the size and scope of such exercises,
including both strategic bombers close to each other’s territory and
ground-based exercises as well,” the official said.

The official said Washington is open to
a broader discussion on missile deployment in the region. In 2019, Former
President Donald Trump withdrew from the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate-range
Nuclear Forces Treaty, on accusations Moscow was violating the accord.

A separate senior Biden administration
official said penalties being explored in the case of a Russian invasion would
not start low and be tightened over time.

“Instead, we would adopt a ‘start
high, stay high’ approach in which we – in coordination with our allies and
partners – would immediately impose severe and overwhelming costs on Russia’s
economy, including its financial system and sectors deemed critical to the
Kremlin,” the official said.

The United States has been discussing
with allies and partners in Europe and Asia a range of trade restrictions under
consideration, the source familiar with the planning said.

No decisions have yet been taken, but
restrictions under consideration could impact US products exported to Russia
and certain foreign-made products subject to US jurisdiction.

Russia could be added to the most
restrictive group of countries for export control purposes, together with Cuba,
Iran, North Korea and Syria. These actions could also restrict export of
products made abroad if they contain more than a specified percentage of US
content.

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In addition, consideration is being
given to exercising US jurisdiction, through the Foreign Direct Product Rule
used for Chinese telecom company Huawei, to exports to Russia of all
microelectronics designed with US software or technology, or produced using US
equipment.

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