Brussels, Belgium – Foreign policy experts have been waiting anxiously for the past week, while US and NATO officials met with their Russian counterparts to discuss the defense of the crisis over Ukraine.
Three important meetings, mentioned as critical of geopolitics, were held in European cities, following last month’s discussions between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday NATO-Russia Council meeting, who met in Brussels after more than two years, officials spoke about the importance of dialogue for disarmament and missile deployment.
Addressing journalists at a press conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues. Our differences will not be easy to bridge.”
Despite massive troops at its border with Ukraine, Moscow denies allegations by Kiev and Western powers that it was planning an invasion. The Kremlin rather blames NATO for undermining the region’s security and has sent a wish list of security claims to Washington – most of which have already been described as “non-beginners”.
In the first place, Russia wants NATO and its allies to ban Ukraine and former Soviet countries from joining the alliance.
It also called on NATO to scale down activities in Eastern Europe.
Fabrice Pothier, a strategy officer at the Rasmussen Global policy group, named after its founder, former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said negotiations with the Kremlin had always been a challenge for the alliance.
“It is very difficult for NATO to do anything that does not protect its own interests and values, and of course starts with the territorial integrity of its allies,” he told Al Jazeera.
“NATO can compromise on transparency, how its allies inform each other about military exercises and about the positioning of certain sensitive weapons systems along borders. But beyond that, NATO will never give way. “
The Western-led pursuit of diplomacy has accelerated after about 100,000 Russian troops were spotted along the Ukraine-Russia border at the end of last year.
As well as the NATO event in Brussels, US and Russian officials discussed the crisis on Monday in Geneva and the week ended in Vienna, with a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest security body.
After the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, Wendy Sherman, Deputy US Secretary of State, complained that there was “no commitment to de-escalation”.
She added that Russia may not yet be prepared on how to proceed.
But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Moscow had made it clear to NATO members that the situation had become “unbearable for Russia”.
At a press conference in Brussels, Grushko condemned NATO enlargement in Eastern European countries.
“The expansion does not solve the issue of security. “The expansion only shifts the dividing lines, does not remove them,” he said.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also adopted a tough tone, and says he no longer has patience, and that NATO and the US should respond to his demand within days.
Oleg Ignatov, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Russia, said Washington and the West could not reach common ground with Russia because they did not understand the logic behind Russian proposals.
“Russia does not want to see Ukraine as a neutral country, but more as a friendly country,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that Ukraine is not the only issue of interest to the Kremlin.
“It is also about how Russia wants to position itself in the world. It is therefore a geopolitical conflict that focuses on Russia’s attitude and vision, “he added.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau and OSCE chairman kicked off Thursday’s meeting in Austria by say that the risk of war in the OSCE area was now greater than ever before in the last 30 years.
Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the OSCE, told Russian TV channel Dozhd: “I do not think there will be any concrete results this week. Our main goal is in principle to establish a dialogue. ”
As the week ended without a breakthrough solution, Mykola Bielieskov, an analyst at Ukraine’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, said NATO and Western support would be key to maintaining the country’s sovereignty.
“If we only consider Ukraine and Russia, Russia is obviously more powerful. “But with the support of NATO, our Western allies and our own efforts, we have been able to chart a path of deterrence and resilience,” he told Al Jazeera.
But Ivana Stradner, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute working on Russia and cyber security, explained that although NATO expanded its presence in Ukraine and other Eastern and Central European countries after the Cold War, today’s threats are different. is.
“Russia is conducting an advanced form of hybrid warfare in Ukraine and Moscow has also launched disinformation campaigns across Europe,” she told Al Jazeera.
“The strength of NATO must be measured by how successfully it can counter Russia in the gray zone. “Hybrid warfare deterrence is not an easy task, but NATO must deploy its anti-hybrid support teams in Eastern Europe.”
While the crisis is taking place on European soil, some EU diplomats say they are being sidelined when major decisions are made about Ukraine.
“There is no security in Europe without the security of Ukraine. And it is clear that any discussion on European security should involve the EU and Ukraine, ”Josep Borrell, the bloc’s high-ranking representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told reporters after visiting Ukraine’s front line in early January. has.
MEP Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel said the EU’s weak presence in the talks came as no surprise.
“The problem with the EU is not that it is actively taking a back seat, but that we still do not have a coherent and unified foreign policy towards Russia. Some EU countries choose to be neutral towards Russia. This leads to that delayed statements are coming from our side, which I regret, ”she told Al Jazeera.
Looking ahead, Ignatov said people in the frontline zone remain at risk.
“People along the border do not think about geopolitics. Ending the war is their priority. Unfortunately, they do not have a voice on the diplomatic table. “Their interests must be taken care of immediately,” he told Al Jazeera.
Stradner added that while the EU, US and NATO are eager to continue talking to Russia, “Western leaders often show strong words backed by poor action. The ‘dialogue-make-everything’ approach has never been in Russia. did not work and will not work now. ”