NATO, Russia in high-level talks as Ukraine tensions simmer

The talks come throughout every week of high-stakes diplomacy and a U.S.-led effort to stop preparations for what Washington believes could possibly be a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies it’s planning an assault. Still, its historical past of army motion in Ukraine and Georgia worries NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin had been stern-faced as they posed for the media earlier than the NATO-Russia Council. There was no public handshake, though the Russian delegation fist-bumped officers from the 30 NATO member nations contained in the assembly venue.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman led the U.S. crew at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg tweeted that “it’s a well timed alternative for dialogue at a vital second for European safety. When tensions are excessive, it’s much more essential that we sit down across the identical desk and tackle our considerations.”

The assembly is the primary of its form in over two years. The NATO-Russia Council, their chief discussion board for talks, was arrange 20 years in the past however full conferences paused when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has met solely sporadically since, the final time in July 2019.

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With round 100,000 combat-ready Russian troops backed by tanks, artillery and heavy tools massed simply throughout Ukraine’s japanese border, Wednesday’s gathering has taken on nice significance, but it nonetheless appears destined to fail.

“These are fully unacceptable proposals,” Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet informed public broadcaster ERR on the eve of the talks. Estonia, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, depends on U.S. safety ensures supplied by its membership in NATO.

Putin says Russia’s calls for are easy, however key elements of the proposals contained in the paperwork that Moscow has made public — a draft settlement with NATO nations and the provide of a treaty between Russia and the United States — gained’t go muster on the 30-country army group.

NATO must conform to halt all membership plans, not simply with Ukraine, and scale down its presence in nations like Estonia near Russia’s borders. In alternate, Russia would pledge to restrict its conflict video games, as nicely as finish plane buzzing incidents and different low-level hostilities.

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Endorsing such an settlement would require NATO to reject a key a part of its founding treaty. Under Article 10 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, the group can invite in any prepared European nation that may contribute to safety in the North Atlantic space and fulfill the obligations of membership.

“It has turn out to be crystal clear that not a single ally contained in the NATO alliance is prepared to budge or negotiate something as it pertains to NATO’s open door coverage,” Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, mentioned Tuesday. “I can not think about any state of affairs the place that’s up for dialogue.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia expects a fast reply.

“The state of affairs concerning European safety and our nationwide pursuits has reached a vital line,” Peskov mentioned in a convention name with reporters, and he branded the group “an instrument of confrontation.”

“The alliance has been conceived as such, and it’s the way it has been organized and is creating now. It’s fairly apparent, so the enlargement of this mechanism poses a menace to us,” he mentioned.

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He declined to say what measures Russia would possibly take if talks fail, saying that Moscow “wouldn’t prefer to problem threats and ultimatums and warn that others can pay a excessive value, as U.S. officers do,” Peskov mentioned.

Maksim Samorukov, a fellow on the Carnegie Moscow Center suppose tank, says the dearth of any actual Russian concessions in Putin’s draft settlement in all probability implies that “Russia is able to tolerate a failure of those negotiations.”

The idea, Samorukov mentioned, is to “reveal to the West that we’re critical, we imply business. That Russia is admittedly able to take drastic steps to impose these concessions” on the U.S.-led army group.

Still, NATO cannot afford to disregard Russia’s provide. Some members worry that Putin could also be searching for a pretext to launch an invasion — just like the failure of the West to have interaction — and any talks that will ease tensions over border forces, missile deployments or conflict video games can be welcome.


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, and Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

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