The U.S. reportedly is ready to discuss a deal limiting future missile deployments in Ukraine and pulling back on NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe, if Russia will back off on Ukraine.
The U.S. began talks with the Russians in Geneva, Switzerland today as tens of thousands of Russian troops remain camped on Ukraine's border, ready to invade.
But Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking Sunday on ABC, did not sound hopeful about achieving success in the talks, at least right away.
"I don't think we are going to see any breakthroughs (this) week. We're going to listen to their concerns, they'll listen to our concerns and we'll see if there are grounds for progress. But to make actual progress, it's very hard to see that happening when there's an ongoing escalation," Blinken said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed into NATO and that NATO will pull back from former Soviet states.
Russian officials say former Secretary of State James Baker made this promise to them at the end of the Cold War.
The U.S. says that's not true.
Historically, Russia views Ukraine as a strategic buffer against invasion.
Some say Putin also sees it as a key to reasserting Russia's global influence if he can dominate it.
Associated Press Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee says U.S. negotiators "are in a bit of a difficult position because the Russian demands are nonstarters, right? And everyone, everyone on the Western side, on the NATO side, agrees that they're non-starters. And yet here is Putin and Russia kind of with all the cards with this massive troop build up on the Ukrainian border."
Blinken says the U.S. and NATO are prepared to punish Russia if it moves on Ukraine.
"There will be massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression," Blinken said, "By which I mean, economic, financial, and other consequences. As well as NATO almost certainly having to reinforce its positions on its eastern flank."
Anti-Russian protestors took to the streets of Ukraine's capital, Kiev, on Sunday, fearful that Putin may not be bluffing about an invasion. One Ukrainian protestor
said, "We are afraid that Russia will attack Ukraine in the coming months and we are very worried about this because we all built this country. We love it. We believe in its future."
This is happening as Russia seeks to prop up another old Soviet state, sending troops to Kazakhstan to quell unrest after government forces opened fire and killed scores of protestors angry about rising fuel prices.