At around 10:00 am, consultations started in Brussels between delegations from Russia and the thirty NATO member states. This will mainly concern the Russian demands on NATO and the crisis surrounding Ukraine. Expectations are not high. The fact that this NATO-Russia Council has been able to reunite after 2.5 years is already seen as positive.
Russia is demanding that NATO withdraw from all countries under Russian influence during the Cold War. NATO has absolutely no intention of doing that. In addition, Russia wants a guarantee that Ukraine and Georgia, as well as Sweden and Finland, will never join NATO. That is not what Russia is about, say those countries and also the NATO member states.
Meanwhile, Russia has concentrated some 100,000 troops on its borders with Ukraine. The question is whether Russia will actually invade if its demands are rejected or whether threatening to do so is a means of extracting commitments. NATO’s commitment will be for Russia to withdraw its troops on the border with Ukraine.
More issues on the table
Russia and the US, the main NATO country, already met on Monday in Geneva. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman called those talks “honest and candid,” but they have not yielded any breakthrough.
Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, history seems to be making a comeback. This is why Putin wants NATO to stop expanding:
“Frankly, I see little room for compromise,” US ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told CNN last night. But there are also other issues on the table, she said, such as restrictions on military exercises and on missiles.
Smith also said Russia is doing nothing to ease tensions over Ukraine. On the contrary, the Russians are said to have plans to gather even more soldiers. She doesn’t believe that they are just practicing, as Russia says. “That is a lot of soldiers for an exercise and we were not informed that there would be an exercise.”