Russia and NATO are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with a focus on reducing border tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
NATO objected to the gathering of Russian troops on the border, saying they undermine European security. For its part, Russia is seeking security guarantees such as limiting the expansion of the 30-member NATO alliance, arguing that the inclusion of a country like Ukraine on its border represents a threat.
US Ambassador to NATO Julian Smith told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s talks that the NATO side is committed to seeing whether diplomacy can de-escalate the situation, and that the overall topics of discussion are “risk reduction, transparency, and arms control”. will be about We communicate with each other in different ways.”
Smith expressed US solidarity with Ukraine, saying that “Russian action has led to this crisis” and that NATO allies were prepared to stop a Russian offensive.
“Should Russia pursue a course of confrontation and military action, we have made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond in a number of ways, including high-impact economic measures,” Smith said. “As an alliance, we are prepared to strengthen NATO’s defense on the East Coast, and we are prepared to incur serious costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine.”
Wednesday’s meeting is the second of three opportunities this week for US and European diplomats to speak directly with Russian officials about the situation with Ukraine. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Vienna on Thursday.
In Geneva on Monday, US and Russian diplomats held their respective sessions, with both sides indicating no major progress had been made in the latter.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that talks in Geneva were “open, comprehensive and straightforward”, an assessment echoed by Washington. But Peskov said it was the outcome that ultimately mattered.
“As of now, let’s say we see no significant reason for optimism,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
Victoria Nuland, the US deputy secretary of state for political affairs, told reporters on Tuesday: “We have not seen the slightest sign of de-escalation from the Russian side.” “It is Russia who created this crisis in full cloth” by deploying 100,000 troops across Ukraine’s eastern border.
At the Geneva talks, Russia demanded guarantees, which were rejected by the United States, that NATO would halt Russia’s eastward expansion and halt military deployments to Eastern Europe.
“NATO poses no threat to Russia. It is a defensive alliance whose sole purpose is to protect its members,” Nuland said.
Western allies fear Russia is planning to invade Ukraine after annexing its Crimean peninsula in 2014. Russia has denied plans to invade its once-Soviet satellite state, but it also disagrees with US demands that it withdraw troops from the border.
US President Joe Biden has ruled out a military confrontation with Russia should it decide to attack Ukraine, but says the US and its allies will impose significant economic sanctions if the US does invade.