NATO, Russia in high-level talks on Ukraine amid fears of Russian invasion: NPR

Military vehicles and tanks from Poland, Italy, Canada and the United States roll in NATO’s ‘Namejs 2021’ military exercises at a training ground in Kadaga, Latvia on September 13 2021.

Roman Koksarov / AP

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Roman Koksarov / AP

Military vehicles and tanks from Poland, Italy, Canada and the United States roll in NATO’s ‘Namejs 2021’ military exercises at a training ground in Kadaga, Latvia on September 13 2021.

Roman Koksarov / AP

BRUSSELS (AP) – Senior NATO and Russian officials meet on Wednesday to try to bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences over Ukraine’s future, amid deep skepticism about the authenticity of the proposals Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security brief to ease tensions.

The meeting comes amid a week of high-stakes diplomacy and a US-led effort to prevent preparations for what Washington believes to be a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies planning an attack. Yet its history of military action in Ukraine and Georgia worries NATO.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin will lead Moscow’s delegation to the NATO-Russia Council, the first time it has met in more than two years. US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will also be at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

The meeting is expected to last about three hours. The NATO-Russia Council, their main forum for talks, was established two decades ago, but plenary meetings were interrupted when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. It has only met sporadically since, last time in July 2019.

With around 100,000 combat-ready Russian troops backed by tanks, artillery and heavy equipment massed just across Ukraine’s eastern border, Wednesday’s rally has grown in importance, but it still seems doomed to failure.

“These are totally unacceptable proposals,” Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet told public broadcaster ERR on the eve of the talks.

Estonia, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, relies on the American security guarantees provided by its NATO membership. The three Baltic countries were once ruled by the Soviet Union, but are now part of the European Union and NATO.

Putin says Russia’s demands are straightforward, but key elements of the proposals in documents Moscow has released – a draft deal with NATO countries and the offer of a treaty between Russia and the United States – will not pass the 30 -military organization of the country.

NATO should agree to end all membership plans, not just with Ukraine, and reduce its presence in countries like Estonia close to Russia’s borders. In return, Russia would pledge to limit its war games, as well as to end incidents of aircraft buzzing and other low-intensity hostilities.

Approval of such an agreement would require NATO to reject a key element of its founding treaty. Under Article 10 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, the organization can invite to any voluntary European country that can contribute to security in the North Atlantic area and meet membership obligations.

“It has become clear that no allies within NATO are willing to budge or negotiate anything regarding NATO’s open door policy,” Julianne Smith said on Tuesday, the Ambassador of the United States to NATO. “I can’t imagine any scenario where this is open to discussion.”

Maksim Samorukov, a member of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, says the absence of real Russian concessions in Putin’s draft deal probably means that “Russia is ready to tolerate a failure of these negotiations.”

The idea, Samorukov said, is “to show the West that we are serious, that we are serious. That Russia is really ready to take drastic measures to impose these concessions “on the military organization led by the United States.

Yet NATO cannot afford to ignore Russia’s offer. Some members fear that Putin is looking for a pretext to launch an invasion – such as the West’s failure to engage – and any discussion that eases tensions over border forces, missile deployments or war games would be the end of the line. welcome.

For the Kremlin, however, time is running out.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that this week’s talks had so far given little cause for optimism. He said the results of Wednesday’s meeting, and that of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Thursday, could determine whether it makes sense to continue speaking.

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