BRUSSELS – With nearly 100,000 Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s borders, NATO officials on Wednesday opened talks with a Russian delegation with the aim of repelling an invasion and easing tensions between Moscow and Russia. ‘West.
The meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels is the second stop on a diplomatic tour focused on the Kremlin, after talks in Geneva on Monday between Russian and US officials. Above the high-level diplomacy looms the question of whether Russian President Vladimir V. Putin will invade Ukraine as he seeks to pressure the West to quash the Russian presence. NATO in Eastern Europe, or that it is defusing.
The United States and its NATO allies are hopeful that Mr Putin will decide to negotiate, as he now faces threats of punitive economic sanctions and even new deployments to NATO allies bordering Russia. .
NATO officials are not optimistic and question the seriousness of Moscow’s commitment to a diplomatic resolution. Still, they say there are European security issues that can be fruitfully discussed with Russia, including nuclear stocks, missile deployments, the limits of conventional forces in Europe, better security at sea and in the world. the air, and more transparency on military exercises.
NATO has categorically rejected Russian demands to stop further enlargement with countries wishing to join the alliance and to withdraw all Allied troops from NATO members bordering Russia. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although the alliance promised in 2008 that it would someday be.
The meeting in Brussels, chaired by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, is expected to last at least three hours. The Russian delegation will be headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr V. Grushko, who served as Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO from 2012 to 2018.
It is formally a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which was established in 2002 to discuss mutual security issues but which has been essentially moribund since April 2014 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea.
The US delegation will be led by Wendy R. Sherman, the Assistant Secretary of State who led the US side in Geneva, with military aides and Julianne Smith, the new US Ambassador to NATO.
NATO has 30 members, so in a sense the meeting is 30 to one. But NATO officials say they intend to listen and respond to Russian grievances and proposals.
They also plan to detail NATO’s complaints about Russia’s violations of earlier agreements such as the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe and the Treaty Governing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missiles in Europe. The two pacts could be renegotiated to the benefit of both parties.
NATO officials stress that they wish to remain focused on Russia’s significant and continued military build-up around Ukraine, rather than Russian desires to force a renegotiation of the post-security architecture. cold war in Europe.
After the talks on Monday, Sergei A. Ryabkov, who led the Russian side, denied that Russia intended another military invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Ryabkov warned that if the West does not accept Russia’s demands to remove NATO’s footprint from Eastern Europe and reject any future Ukraine membership, he would face indeterminate consequences which would put the “security of the whole of Europe as a continent” in danger.
While Mr. Putin is particularly interested in bilateral discussions with the United States and considers NATO and the European Union to be subject to American wishes and decisions, the Biden administration has received good marks from its members. allies and partners, including Ukraine, keep them informed at every stage of the talks.