Stoltenberg warned that the build-up of Russian military assets along the Ukrainian border continued and that Russia had “unfortunately” failed to respond to numerous calls for de-escalation in recent weeks. “The potential for conflict is real,” he said, referring to the possible reuse of military force by Russia against Ukraine. Russia denies this intention, saying that it can deploy forces at the national level where it wishes.
NATO ministers met in an “extraordinary” meeting on Friday ahead of Wednesday’s talks with Russia in the NATO-Russia Council (which last met in 2019). According to Stoltenberg, there is “strong support” among member states to start talks with Russia.
“We are ready to talk about conventional and nuclear arms control,” Stoltenberg said, “as long as it is reciprocal, balanced and verifiable. It is different to accept unilateral restrictions on the capacity and the right of the NATO to defend all NATO members We cannot find ourselves in a situation with some kind of second-rate NATO members.
Let Ukraine be a “valued partner” but not a Navolid that can claim military support in an armed attack, Stoltenberg reiterated. But the alliance can only speak to Russia in consultation with Ukraine: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Koeleba will visit Brussels on Monday.
Far-reaching Russian demands
Russia last month, with the publication of two draft treaties, demanded, among other things, the withdrawal of all NATO troops from countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact and guarantees that NATO will not expand further. never to the east. These are far-reaching demands, which are presented as an ultimatum, under penalty of unspecified “military-technical measures”.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who will negotiate with the Americans in Geneva next week, said again this week that Russia was in a hurry and warned that further Western sanctions could lead to the end of all cooperation in security, including arms control. Ryabkov also said that Russia was opposed not only to Ukraine’s eventual membership of Navo (which is not politically on the menu, despite a pledge to do so in 2008), but also to ties between it. NATO with the country outside the membership.
Ryabkov said on Wednesday at The Wall Street Journal that the Russians in Geneva want “to know quickly” if there is a basis for working together on some of these points. “Our forces will be there too, and we will see if there is a basis to continue the diplomatic route.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen joined the chorus of European politicians on Friday denouncing the EU’s marginal role. Macron, who under the French presidency wants to make Europe’s “strategic autonomy” a priority, said on Friday he welcomed the US-Russian talks, but added that “the European security architecture is something thing we have to build “.
The question Western politicians are now asking is whether Russia is serious about negotiating or has simply made “impossible” demands to escalate things militarily even further. Western politicians also agree that it is possible to renegotiate nuclear weapons controls, confidence-building measures and limits on certain types of conventional weapons with Russia after years of deteriorating relations – especially after the annexation of Russia. Crimea by Russia in 2014.
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