Europe has not been this close to war for three decades.
That was the stark assessment delivered to 57 nations in Vienna on Thursday.
The chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau, said the Ukraine crisis was extremely concerning.
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Russian and western diplomats have met in three cities this week, but with no sign of progress.
US diplomats say conflict is looming, the drumbeat of war increasingly loud. America is rejecting Russia’s demands for sweeping security guarantees.
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Russia wants cast iron assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO, and that allied forces will be pulled out of eastern European nations that have already joined.
Failing to bridge the gap
America has rejected that as unacceptable. A sovereign country has the right to join any organisation it chooses, say western diplomats.
Hours of talks across Europe have failed to bridge the gap.
Russia’s ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, told Sky News it is NATO that’s the aggressor.
Image: Russia’s ambassador to the OSCE, Alexander Lukashevich, says diplomacy will be sped up. Pic: AP
“The question is what the United States, United Kingdom, and other members of alliance are doing on the territory of Ukraine by military exercises, flying very provocative flights, and so on.”
Russia had said it would decide when this week’s talks were over whether or not to continue with diplomacy.
All eyes are on Moscow as President Vladimir Putin makes his next move.
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Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Thursday that the talks had been unsuccessful.
This was followed by reports that Mr Putin was consulting on military options should there be no further progress.
But other Russian officials say the diplomatic path will continue being pursued.
‘Speed up diplomacy’
Ambassador Lukashevich told Sky News: “We will speed up the diplomacy.”
The mixed messaging may be tactical.
Mr Putin is a past master at confusing his enemies with conflicting signals. He is keeping the world guessing.
What is clear is that a week of intense diplomacy has done nothing to defuse this crisis.
The talks are ending as they began – in deadlock.
That means the risk of invasion and war remains as real as ever.
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