Newsdeck

NATO

‘No ultimatums’: Russia sets out security demands at NATO meeting

epa09680010 (L-R) US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin attend the NATO-Russia Council at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 12 January 2022. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL

BRUSSELS, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Russia laid out its demands for security guarantees in Europe to NATO's 30 allies on Wednesday but insisted they were not ultimatums following intense talks with the United States in Geneva that failed to break the deadlock.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg received Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko at allied headquarters to try to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War over Russia massing troops near its border with Ukraine.

Moscow has dismissed concerns expressed by the United States that it may be planning to invade its neighbour and Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said live-fire exercises on the Ukraine border on Tuesday were not linked to the NATO talks.

“We are not negotiating from a position of strength; there is not, and nor can there be, any place for ultimatums here,” he said in Moscow as the talks were getting underway in Brussels.

But he said pan-European security was at a critical point and the West needed to respond to Russia’s concerns about NATO activities in former communist countries it sees as its backyard.

NATO allies say the talks, the highest-profile attempt at the alliance to turn a potential conflict over Ukraine into a political process, are taking place because of Russian aggression, not the other way around.

“Let’s be clear: Russian actions have precipitated this crisis. We are committed to using diplomacy to de-escalate the situation,” U.S. envoy to NATO Julianne Smith told reporters on Tuesday evening.

“We want to see … Russia pulling back its forces,” she said of the 100,000 troops stationed near Ukraine.

 

‘DIALOGUE, NOT NEGOTIATION’

NATO diplomats say the Western alliance would consider it a success if Russia agreed to hold further talks. Allies are ready to negotiate with Moscow on increasing openness around military drills and to avoid accidental clashes that could spark conflict, as well as arms control regarding missiles in Europe.

But the NATO allies say that many of Russia’s demands, laid out in two draft treaties in December, are unacceptable, including calls to scale back the alliance’s activities to 1990s era levels and promising not to take in new members.

Bridling at NATO’s expansion eastward into its old Soviet sphere of influence, the Kremlin sees the U.S.-led alliance’s deterrents and military modernisation as a threat.

Russia sounded a downbeat note over prospects for more talks with the United States on Tuesday.

Grushko, a former Russian ambassador to NATO, has said Russia wants to avoid confrontation. His direct colleague Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov – who held talks with the United States in Geneva but who was not in Brussels on Wednesday – has said Ukraine must never be allowed to join NATO.

NATO has no immediate plans to admit Ukraine, but says Russia cannot dictate its relations with other sovereign states.

Talks will continue this week in Vienna at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a broader body where Russia, the United States and Europeans are represented.

“Our main goal is, in principle, to establish a dialogue. I think it is worth noting separately that there are no negotiations as such this week,” U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, Michael Carpenter, said according to a U.S. transcript of an interview with Russia’s TV Rain (Dozhd) published on Wednesday.

By Robin Emmott

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Vienna and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.