‘Not an easy discussion’ Russian and NATO officials say they are far from agreement after talks in Brussels
Russian and NATO officials convened for talks at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, January 12. The meeting came two days after diplomats from Russia and the U.S. held similar talks in Geneva. Both discussions were largely inconclusive. Washington and NATO are attempting to push back against sweeping security proposals put forward by Russia in December, while also trying to deter Moscow from launching a full-fledged attack on Ukraine. Speaking to the press after Wednesday’s talks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the two sides remain divided on fundamental issues. Meduza summarizes their comments here.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko
The talks revealed a great degree of diversion on fundamental questions, but it was a deep discussion. We told NATO honestly that further deterioration in relations poses serious risks. If NATO moves to a policy of containment, we will move to a policy of counter-containment. If there is deterrence, there will be counter-deterrence. Attempts to build security without Russia’s involvement are counterproductive. For us an end to NATO’s open-door policy and legal guarantees that the alliance won’t expand further eastward are absolutely imperative. NATO expansion creates unacceptable risks for us, which we will resist. The argument that no one else can determine NATO’s policies towards its members is unfounded. We don’t rule out the possibility of restoring our diplomatic mission to the alliance. The Ukrainian authorities need to be forced to comply with the Minsk agreements — then de-escalation will be possible. NATO must stop all military aid to Kyiv.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
This was not an easy discussion. There are significant differences between NATO Allies and Russia on these issues. But after two years where such meetings were not possible to convene, that we were able to sit down for talks is a positive sign. Russia is demanding that we stop admitting new members to NATO and withdraw forces from the bloc’s eastern allies — for us this is unacceptable. Each nation, including Ukraine, has the right to choose its own path. Russia cannot decide who joins NATO and who doesn’t, and Russia doesn’t have veto on whether Ukraine can become a NATO member. NATO is a defensive alliance. The idea that NATO caused the breakdown of Yugoslavia is wrong, we went into Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo to stop atrocities. NATO enlargement is not aggressive. Russia has used force and continues to use force against Ukraine. Our dialogue is difficult, but necessary. There is a real risk of a new armed conflict in Europe, which is why meetings like the one that took place today are so important. We’re ready to meet with Russia again to have discussion in greater detail, put concrete proposals on the table, and seek constructive outcomes. But if Russia uses military forces, there will be severe economic and political sanctions.
This is an approximate summary of statements made to the press after today’s NATO–Russia summit in Brussels. The quotes above are not necessarily verbatim.