Russia, NATO Conclude Ukraine Crisis Talks: Live Updates

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said significant points of contention remain with Russia following talks aimed at easing tensions with the West and preventing a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Olivier Hoslet

BRUSSELS – The NATO chief said on Wednesday that “significant differences” remained between the bloc and Russia after four hours of talks aimed at delaying another Russian invasion of Ukraine and easing tensions between Moscow and Russia. West.

“Our differences will not be easy to overcome,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference after the talks at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said NATO allies urged Russia to “immediately defuse the situation in Ukraine”, where nearly 100,000 Russian troops have gathered near the borders, and to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors. Russian officials have not made a commitment to withdraw the troops, nor have they rejected the request, officials said.

NATO allies reiterated their refusal to accept Russian demands to stop further enlargement with countries wishing to join the alliance and to withdraw all Allied troops from NATO members bordering Russia. Wendy R. Sherman, the assistant secretary of state who led the US delegation to the talks, called some of Russia’s demands “simply unachievable.”

“It was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why this meeting was so important,” Stoltenberg said, adding that NATO allies and Russia had “a very serious exchange. and direct on the situation in and around Ukraine and its implications for European security.

The meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels was 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. .

Stoltenberg said NATO allies have offered Russia a series of new meetings on broader European security issues, including arms control and missile deployments. But while the Russian delegation was generally positive, he said, they would or might not commit to a new meeting. This is another indication that even Russia’s top diplomats may not know what Mr. Putin’s real intentions are.

During a briefing to reporters in Brussels, Sherman said NATO officials have identified areas for the Russians “where we can work together and make real progress”, including on arms control and a greater transparency in military exercises. But she reiterated the US position that Russia must first withdraw from the Ukrainian threat, adding that the fate of the Moscow-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany would depend. of Russian de-escalation.

Ms Sherman said the United States was ready to continue talks with the Russians, but didn’t seem sure Moscow would follow suit.

“If Russia leaves,” she said, it would be “quite obvious that they have never been serious about pursuing diplomacy.”

The head of the Russian delegation – Aleksandr V. Grushko, who was Russia’s permanent representative to NATO from 2012 to 2018 – was due to brief reporters later on Wednesday.

The talks were formally a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which was established in 2002 to discuss mutual security concerns but which has been essentially moribund since April 2014 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

NATO has 30 members, so in a sense the meeting was 30 to one. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although the alliance promised in 2008 that it would someday be.

NATO officials stressed that they wanted to keep the focus on Russia’s significant and continued military build-up around Ukraine, rather than on Russian desires to force a renegotiation of the security architecture of the Ukraine. post-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.

Christi C. Elwood