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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

NATO and Russia talk frankly, but for now have overtaken each other

BRUSSELS — After four hours of talks with Russia, NATO leaders said they were willing to engage in serious diplomacy with Moscow on arms control and missile deployment in Europe, but outright rejected Russian demands that The Coalition halts the expansion, pulling back its forces. Member states bordering Russia further guarantee that Ukraine will never join it.

“Significant differences” between NATO and Russia remained, and “bridging our differences will not be easy,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting.

“There is a real risk to new armed conflict in Europe,” said Mr. Stoltenberg, which would incur serious economic and other costs to Moscow, he said, and would bring new military deployments to member states near Russia.

The United States and its NATO and EU allies pressure Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin to abandon any further aggression on Ukraine, to withdraw its troops, and to engage in reciprocal diplomacy over Russia’s security concerns – and NATO are.

Mr Stoltenberg said NATO allies urged Russia to “immediately de-escalate the situation in Ukraine”, where some 100,000 Russian troops have gathered near the borders, and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours. Officials said Russian representatives did not commit to withdrawing troops, nor did they reject the demand.

NATO allies refused to accede to Russian demands to prevent further expansion with countries that wished to join the coalition and to withdraw all allied troops from NATO members bordering Russia. A former permanent representative of NATO from 2012–18, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander V. Those demands were reiterated after talks by Grushko.

“This is a theoretical position, and we will not go beyond that,” he said. But he called the meeting “rather honest, direct, deep and comprehensive,” “but at the same time, it showed a great deal of divergence on fundamental questions.”

“It was a heart-to-heart discussion,” said Mr. Grushko. “I think we were able to communicate to the members of the coalition that the situation is becoming unbearable.” It was an opportunity to remind NATO that Russia could also have a say in the future of European security, which “may carry risks,” Mr Grusko said. “We support a peaceful solution based on balance,” he said.

Mr Grushko’s comments indicated that Russia was not closing the door to further diplomacy for now, even though it has not committed to talks beyond this week. Russian officials said earlier this week they would wait for a full weekend of talks – which began with an informal dinner in Geneva on Sunday and will end in Vienna on Thursday – before making a decision on whether How to continue

Russian officials deny that the country is planning to invade Ukraine, but Mr Putin has warned that there will be an unspecified “military-technical” reaction if the West does not agree to Russia’s demands. Mr. Grushko repeated that warning without adding clarity.

“If NATO proceeds with a policy of containment, we will have a policy of counter-control,” Mr. Grushko said. “If there is resistance, there will be counter-resistance.”

Leading the US delegation for the talks was Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman called some of Russia’s demands “simply non-starting” and emphasized NATO’s proposals to Moscow for diplomacy.

Briefing reporters in Brussels, Ms Sherman said NATO officials are looking for Russian areas “where we can work together and make real progress,” arms control, missile deployment, risk reduction and military exercises. with greater transparency.

Mr Stoltenberg said NATO allies offered Russia a series of further meetings on broader issues of European security, including those raised by Ms Sherman. But while the Russian delegation was generally positive, he said, they would not or could not commit to a new meeting. It’s another sign that even Russia’s top diplomats may not know what Mr Putin’s intentions really are.

Ms Sherman said she hoped after this long week of discussions with top Russian representatives, which continues in Vienna on Thursday, that they “will return to Moscow and they will brief the Russian President, and they will all appreciate And understand, and the President of Russia will agree, that diplomacy is the right path.”

She said the decision was up to Mr Putin. “If Russia walks away,” she said, it “will be quite clear that they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy.”

Washington and its allies promise “serious costs and consequences” if Russia attacks Ukraine further, imposing “a serious price on Russia’s economy and financial system”, Ms Sherman said.

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The choice of Moscow will be crucial to the fate of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany in the future, Ms Sherman reiterated. “From our point of view, it’s very difficult to see gas flowing through the pipeline or turning it on if Russia renews its aggression on Ukraine.”

The pipeline, which is not yet operational, is a Russian geopolitical project that undermines the security of “a significant part of the Euro-Atlantic community”.

The meeting at NATO’s Brussels headquarters was the second leg of a diplomatic roadshow centered on the Kremlin, after talks in Geneva between Russian and US officials on Monday. Meetings on Thursday in Vienna with the 57-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Ukraine, will take place at a lower diplomatic level – with ambassadors rather than foreign ministers and other top officials.

If Russia decides to pursue its goals diplomatically rather than go to war in Ukraine again, some negotiations on future European security will take place under the auspices of the OSCE.

The Russian delegation to NATO was led by Mr. Grushko and the Deputy Defense Minister, Alexander V. Fomin did it. He spoke at length about Russia’s demands and concerns at the beginning of the meeting. In subsequent exchanges, all 30 NATO members called Ms Sherman an “amazing unity” on NATO’s core values, including its openness to any country that wants to join and is qualified to do so.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Grushko told reporters that “a moment of truth is coming in our relationship with the coalition,” according to Russian news agencies.

“It was not an easy discussion, but that is why this meeting was so important,” Stoltenberg said, adding that “a very serious and direct exchange on the situation in and around Ukraine, between NATO allies and Russia, and implications for European security.”

The United States and its NATO allies hope Mr Putin will decide to negotiate, as he now faces economic sanctions and threats of new deployments to NATO allies bordering Russia, such as Poland and the Baltic countries.

The issue of the new deployment is a live discussion, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kailas told Reuters. “Of course, we are in discussion with our partners to increase our presence here to act as a deterrent,” she said. “If you look at the map, the Baltic states are a NATO peninsula and so we have our concerns.”

Polish officials also appeared pleased with the American and NATO responses to Moscow’s demands. “Our position is clear,” said Lukasz Jasina, a spokesman for Poland’s foreign minister. “Only NATO and member states make decisions about NATO affairs. No one else.”

Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Marcin Przydz, said Russia is a neighbour, but it cannot be allowed to exert pressure on others. “What Russia has left is intimidating, but with this dwindling role in the world as this little accomplice, the argument that ‘if you don’t listen to us, we’ll beat the little ally’ cannot go unnoticed. Is.”

After Monday’s talks, Sergei A. Ryabkov warned that if the West did not agree to Russia’s demands to withdraw NATO’s footprint in Eastern Europe and reject any future membership for Ukraine, it would face unspecified consequences. The “security of the entire European continent” is at risk.

Americans and Russians say they will discuss whether to keep talking later this week.

That is, until Mr Putin decides to argue that Washington and its allies do not take Russia’s demands seriously – and choose to use this week as an excuse to go to war.

Anton Troyanovsky reported from Bratislava. Reporting was contributed by Monica Pronzuk in Brussels and Michael Crowley in Washington.

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