Correspondent in Brussels
The allies of NATO and Russia have confirmed that they maintain “deep differences”, but consider a good sign that they have been able to meet at a negotiating table to try to resolve them and propose new meetings to channel a dialogue process that reduces the pressure in the military field. The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, appeared after the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council which lasted longer than anticipated – it lasted more than four hours – and acknowledged that despite the fact that “there is a real risk of a conflict in Europe”, finally yesterday’s meeting aimed “precisely to try to avoid it.”
In this sense, he considered that it had been a “useful” meeting to try to soften tensions at a particularly delicate moment due to the threatening concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.
Both Russia and the allies reiterated their starting positions, including Moscow’s demand for guarantees that Ukraine will not be a member of NATO and those of the Alliance, which maintain that they cannot renounce “the open door principle” so that other countries may decide sovereignly to join it.
All the allies “agree that it is up to the 30 NATO members and no one else to decide who can or cannot join the alliance ”, although it is not clear that all would right now be in favor of accepting Kiev as a member. According to Stoltenberg, the discussion was “frank and open, including about the situation in Ukraine and our concern about the concentration of forces near the border.”
Former of the USSR
For his part, according to the Russian press, the representative of Moscow, the Deputy Minister Alexander Grushko, considered that the conversation was “difficult, long, very professional, deep, concrete” and that Moscow hopes as a result that it will accelerate “NATO’s ability to understand the danger of entering a dead end in the dialogue on guarantees security and dare to take a step towards the Russian proposals.
Since December, Moscow has demanded concrete guarantees that Ukraine will not be admitted as full member of the Alliance and the official response he receives is that “in the organization we can discuss many things, but not about principles, such as the right of each country to choose its path or of NATO members to be defended.” Beyond this dogma, Stoltenberg implied that without renouncing those principles, they could continue dragging their feet before daring to make a concrete decision on Ukraine, among other things because not all countries would be willing right now to bless this expansion that Moscow would consider a provocation. That is, as long as the allies can uphold the principles publicly, they can park the decision sine die.
The problem for Moscow is that they already believed they had heard a similar guarantee when the USSR was dismembered and they thought that the West had promised not to extend the borders of the military alliance to the east and not to bring its military infrastructures closer to its borders and if there was such promise has not been honored. All of your former satellites are now members of the Alliance.
NATO has proposed to continue with the dialogue to reduce tensions, although the Russian side did not want to set a commitment for the next meetings, undoubtedly pending the outcome of the talks with the US. exclude the issue of missile deployment and missile limitations in Europe ”, but the Russian side said it could not plan future meetings, even though the general predisposition is that no one excludes future negotiations.
“We have proposed a schedule of meetings, but the Russian delegation has said that they were not in a position to give an answer before consulting” with the Moscow authorities. The Alliance proposal does not include as a precondition the withdrawal of the military device on the Ukrainian border and it is very possible that the Russian authorities will plan their response in the light of the environment in the bilateral negotiations with the United States and multilateral negotiations within the Organization. for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The NATO-Russia Council had not met since 2019 and in recent years, relations between Moscow and NATO have not stopped deteriorating, including collective expulsions of diplomatic representatives considered by NATO as spies. Both NATO and Russia have shown their willingness to reopen their respective representative offices in Moscow and Brussels.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism