by Lorne Cook
BRUSSELS (AP) – The United States and NATO rejected key Russian security demands to de-escalate tensions on Ukraine, but on Wednesday stoked arms control, missile deployment and ways to prevent military incidents between Russia and the West. left open the possibility of future talks with Moscow.
The decisions came at the NATO-Russia Council meeting, the first of its kind in two years. The Russian delegation did not pull out of talks and remained open to the possibility of future discussions after rejecting its main positions, on a positive note in a week of high-level meetings aimed at preventing a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. seen in
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants NATO to withdraw its troops and military equipment from countries bordering Russia, which includes Ukraine but also NATO allies such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Putin also asked the 30-nation military alliance to agree not to accept any more members.
Speaking after the meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman confirmed that some of Putin’s security demands are “merely non-starters.”
“We will not close the door on NATO’s open-door policy,” he told reporters after nearly four hours of talks. “We do not agree that NATO cannot expand further.”
The meeting was called as an estimated 100,000 battle-ready Russian troops, tanks and heavy military equipment are rampant near Ukraine’s eastern border. The buildup has caused deep concern in Kiev and in the West that Moscow is preparing for an invasion.
Russia denies that it has new plans to attack its neighbor and instead accuses the West of endangering its security by deploying military personnel and equipment in Central and Eastern Europe.
Noting that “the escalation does not create optimal conditions for diplomacy, to say the least,” Sherman also expressed optimism after the Brussels meeting, noting that Moscow did not rule out the idea of further talks. .
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who presided over the meeting, said that both the NATO countries and the Russian envoys “expressed the need to resume talks and explore the schedule of future meetings.”
Stoltenberg said NATO is looking forward to discussing ways to prevent dangerous military incidents or accidents involving Russia and Western allies, reducing space and cyber threats, as well as setting limits on missile deployment and other arms control initiatives. .
But Stoltenberg said any conversation about Ukraine would not be easy. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and supported a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s eastern industrial zone in 2014. In the years that followed, more than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.
“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on this issue” of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, Stoltenberg said after “a very serious and direct exchange” with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. told reporters.
Stoltenberg underlined that Ukraine has the right to decide its future security arrangements and NATO will continue to keep its doors open to new members.
“Nobody else has anything to say, and of course, Russia doesn’t have a veto,” he said.
Grushko, who described Wednesday’s conversation as “serious, deep and real,” countered by saying that “the freedom to choose how to ensure one’s safety should not be enforced in a way that violates the legitimate security interests of others.” violates it.”
He did not rule out further discussions with Western allies, but scoffed at NATO’s assurances that it does not threaten Russia and warned that coalition efforts to ensure its security by stopping Russia were doomed to fail. .
“If NATO opposes a policy of deterrence, we will respond with a policy of counter-deterrence,” Grusko said. “If this turns into intimidation, we will retaliate. If it looks for weaknesses in Russia’s defense system, we will look for NATO weaknesses. It is not our choice, but we have no other choice if we do not reverse this current very dangerous course of events. ,
The NATO-Russia Council was established two decades ago, but the plenary meetings stalled when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula nearly eight years ago. These are found only sporadically.
Moscow’s draft agreement with NATO countries and a treaty between Russia and the United States offered NATO all membership plans to reduce its presence not only with Ukraine, but also in countries close to Russia’s borders. must stop.
Supporting such an agreement would mean that NATO would abandon a key principle of its founding treaty, in which the alliance could invite any interested European country that could contribute to security in the North Atlantic region and its membership obligations. can fulfill.
The Russian draft also proposes mutual limits on confidence-building measures to prevent war games and accidents involving warships and aircraft. Grushko said Russia would be ready to continue discussions on issues and weapons control measures, such as not deploying medium-range missiles in Europe.
In the United States, Senate Democrats on Wednesday released their proposal for White House-backed legislation that would end sanctions on Russia sending troops to Ukraine. The measures will target Putin, his top civil and military leaders and major Russian financial institutions.
Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Ellen Nichmeyer in Washington and Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia contributed to this report.