NATO and Russia agreed to talk more at Brussels talks

Left to right: Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Aleksandr Fomin, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during NATO-Russia Council at the Alliance's HQ in Brussels, 12 January 2022. Screenshot: France24

International, Russia, War in Donbas

On 12 January 2022 at NATO headquarters in Brussels, representatives of NATO’s 30 member countries carried out high-level security talks with Russia over Ukraine. The meeting of the NATO and Moscow’s envoys took place under the framework of the NATO-Russia Council for the first time in more than two years. The meeting didn’t bring any significant results.

The negotiations were carried out amid tensions over Moscow’s military build-up near Ukrainian borders, still ongoing since mid-fall 2021.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg chaired the meeting, while the Russian delegation’s leaders were Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin.

In Moscow Russian President Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov that Russia was concerned over any NATO expansion. Meantime, the main concern of the West was Russia’s ongoing massive troop buildup near Ukraine, which could be the Kremlin’s prelude to launching a further incursion into Ukrainian territory.

An ultimatum in any language: experts on Russia’s demand that NATO not expand

After the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO had a “serious and direct exchange” with Russian envoys on the topic of the Ukraine crisis. The Alliance and Russia have agreed to attempt scheduling more meetings of this kind, according to him, both parties had

“expressed the need to dialogue and explore a schedule of future meetings,” the NATO chief said.

Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that NATO wouldn’t agree to Russia’s demands for a new security architecture in Europe but wanted to continue diplomacy, and once again assured that Ukraine has the right to decide its future security arrangements on its own while NATO leaves its door open to new members.

“No one else has anything to say, and of course Russia does not have a veto,” he said.

Jens Stoltenberg also said that NATO has called on Russia to immediately de-escalate the situation around Ukraine, and Allies recalled that any further Russian aggression against Ukraine would have severe cost.
This meeting was the second round of high-level negotiations with Russia this week, and it took place only two days after an initial meeting between the American and Russian negotiators in Geneva on 10 January.

After the NATO-Russia meeting, one of its participants, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who was the top US negotiator at the Geneva talks, said at a briefing in Brussels that the US urged Russia to stay at the negotiating table after the first round of talks but continue discussions, including on topics such as arms control.

“If Russia walks away… it will be quite apparent they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy and that is why collectively we are preparing for every eventuality,” Sherman said in Brussels.

According to RFE/RL, Western officials and analysts see Russia’s buildup as an attempt to pressure the US and EU to make concessions.

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