L’NATO and Russia on Wednesday January 12 saw their deep differences over security in Europe, the Allies urging President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from the outskirts of Ukraine and to participate in talks to avoid a conflict, during a meeting of the NATO-Russia council in Brussels.
“The discussion was not easy. Discussions were direct on the situation in Ukraine and major differences were noted on security in Europe, ”explained Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting of nearly four hours at Alliance headquarters with Alexander Grushko. , Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. “The conversation was very frank, direct, deep, intense, but at the same time it revealed a large number of differences on fundamental questions”, confirmed the Russian vice-minister during a press briefing.
“We have honestly, directly, without detour and without political correctness, said that a continued worsening of the situation could have very serious and unforeseeable consequences for European security,” insisted the Russian diplomat. The NATO secretary general estimated that the differences would be difficult to overcome, and regretted that Moscow did not engage at this stage on the dialogue proposals.
“The risk of a new armed conflict is real”
“We proposed to have a set of meetings to deal with a set of issues, but Russia was not able to agree to this proposal, although it did not reject it,” he said. -he says. “The risk of a new armed conflict is real. It is up to Russia to come out of the crisis. It must engage in de-escalation, ”argued the NATO chief.
The West accuse Moscow of having massed in recent weeks some 100,000 soldiers, tanks and artillery on the border with Ukraine to prepare an attack against this country, an intention denied by the Russian authorities. Moscow affirms that this military deployment is a reaction to the presence considered growing and threatening of NATO in what it considers to be its zone of influence. Russia also refuses any expansion of NATO to countries located in its sphere of influence, such as Ukraine.
This is the first time since July 2019 that the NATO-Russia Council, a forum for dialogue and consultation, has met. The Ukrainian crisis had put this body to sleep and practical cooperation between Russia and NATO has been broken off since 2014, after the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula by Moscow. Russia’s diplomatic mission to the Alliance was withdrawn in October after the expulsion of eight staff members suspected of Western espionage.
On Wednesday, the United States was represented at NATO headquarters by its Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. She took part in talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov in Geneva on Monday. But the meeting was inconclusive, with the Russians sticking to their positions. “I did not hear anything new” in the positions expressed by Alexander Grushko, she declared at the end of the meeting. “Some Russian requests are not even debatable,” she insisted. “Moscow has made no commitment to ease tensions. It does not help a diplomatic solution, ”she said. “We must prepare for any eventuality,” she concluded.
A decisive diplomatic week
After Geneva and Brussels, the diplomatic sequence is to continue Thursday in Vienna with a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the East-West dialogue platform resulting from the Cold War. On Wednesday, Alexander Grouchko reiterated the demand for an end to the NATO enlargement process in the East, and the allies opposed him to an end, declared Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia wants to “reconstitute the Soviet geopolitical glacis in Europe and attempt a decoupling between the United States and Europe. These objectives are clearly unacceptable “, warned Wednesday the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, in a post on his blog. The countries of the European Union – of which 21 are members of NATO – must have “clear positions” for discussions on the security architecture of Europe and we must “formulate our response in case the Russia would carry out its threats against Ukraine, ”said Josep Borrell.
This question of the “precise EU contribution” to the debate will be at the heart of the meetings of the Foreign Affairs and Defense ministers of the Twenty-Seven on Thursday and Friday in Brest (western France). Josep Borrell spoke of “coordinated sanctions” and other unspecified actions. “We are not a military alliance, but we have the means to advance our security interests and those of our partners,” he said.