Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

Meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels includes senior Russian officials and comes during a week of high-importance talks in Europe.

Senior NATO and Russian officials are hold talks in Brussels amid the worst East-West tension since the Cold War, which is now intensified mainly by the confrontation over Ukraine.

Wednesday’s NATO-Russia Council meeting comes during a week of high-interest diplomacy, with a round of talks in Western cities aimed at preventing a dreaded Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has ruled out the possibility of an invasion, blamed the United States and NATO for undermining security in the region, and a wish list of security claims of the alliance, which was sent to the US last month.

Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, chairs the talks, which are being held at the organization’s headquarters. The bookings started at 09:00 GMT and are expected to last about three hours.

All 30 ambassadors of the US-led security alliance participated, while Russia’s delegation featured senior officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin.

The NATO-Russia Council was established two decades ago, but full meetings came to a halt when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014. It has since met only sporadically, most recently in July 2019.

Moscow makes security demands

NATO, Washington and Kiev have accused Russia of deploying up to 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine in recent months.

The US and Ukraine’s other Western allies have promised to impose severe penalties on Russia – which is expected to take the form of comprehensive sanctions – if it launches an offensive.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country’s proposals, set out in two draft treaties in December, are simple. But Western powers see many of the requests as unacceptable. Russia, for example, called on NATO to scale back its activities to levels seen in the 1990s, and called on the alliance to deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.

Wednesday’s meeting comes after talks between the United States and Russia on Monday in Geneva and before a meeting on Thursday in Vienna of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Both sides expressed little optimism about the prospect of a breakthrough during the eruption of diplomatic efforts. Russia and the US gave no sign that they narrowed their differences after Monday’s talks.

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