bne IntelliNews – Russian talks with the West on NATO expansion begin

The first round of talks between the West and Russia on NATO enlargement and the conclusion of a new pan-European security agreement have started and will continue this week in what could prove to be the most important since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. If the negotiations turn badly, a new cold war is at best on the cards and at worst a military conflict.

The first event was a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on January 7 which reiterated NATO’s position that it would not be dictated by Moscow and place no restrictions on which country could join the ‘alliance.

NATO foreign ministers have said they stand united against any possible Russian military action in Ukraine and signaled that many of the Kremlin’s security demands are unacceptable. The first of these demands is that NATO provide “legal guarantees” that Ukraine, and other non-members, will never join the alliance.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated the organization’s hard line.

“We call on Russia to defuse and withdraw its forces and to take the path of peace. We support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And we are united to defend and protect all Allies, ”said Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg went on to say that it was inconceivable that NATO would prevent a country from applying to become a member of the military alliance, pointing out that Russia’s insistence on a Western commitment to prevent Ukraine itself from applying to become a member of the military alliance will be a major sticking point in the upcoming talks.

Stoltenberg anticipated the difficulty of the proposed talks, asserting that NATO was prepared for the “failure” of the negotiations.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels after the meeting, Stoltenberg said: “We will do all we can to ensure a political path for the prevention of the use of force, but at the same time we must be ready in case of dialogue failure. We send clear messages to Moscow that if it uses force there will be serious consequences economic and political sanctions.

Stoltenberg added that Moscow’s demands are unacceptable and that the West will continue to support Ukraine.

“The idea that Ukraine is a threat to Russia is to turn everything upside down. Ukraine is not a threat to Russia,” he said. “I think it is the idea of ​​a democratic and stable Ukraine that is a challenge for them and therefore NATO will continue to support our partner, a sovereign nation, but also, of course, recognizing that Ukraine is a partner and not an ally of NATO. “

The Russian Foreign Ministry released a draft demands agreement in mid-December with very specific demands, but which also contained some concessions. Russia has been equally adamant in its demands, threatening “military and technical” retaliation if the West does not take the demands and the talks seriously.

The points of the draft agreement proposed by Russia consisted of eight articles:

  • Article 1: The parties must not strengthen their security to the detriment of the security of Russia;
  • Article 2: the parties will use multilateral consultations and the NATO-Russia Council to resolve points of conflict;
  • Article 3: the parties reaffirm that they do not consider each other as adversaries and maintain a dialogue;
  • Article 4: the parties will not deploy military and armaments forces on the territory of any of the other European states in addition to the forces deployed as of May 27, 1997;
  • Article 5: The parties shall not deploy medium and short range land missiles adjacent to the other parties;
  • Article 6: All member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization undertake to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO, including the accession of Ukraine as well as other states;
  • Article 7: Parties which are Member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall not carry out any military activity on the territory of Ukraine as well as other States of Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and of ‘Central Asia ; and
  • Article 8: The agreement should not be interpreted as affecting the primary responsibility of the United Nations Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Some of these points are relatively uncontroversial, such as Article 4 which calls for the end of military exercises near each other’s borders. But the biggest sticking point will be Article 7, which calls for a ban on NATO’s eastward expansion.

Both sides approach the talks trying to manage expectations by saying they do not expect a breakthrough in the first week of the talks which began with a dinner between the United States’ deputy foreign ministers. United and Russia on January 9.

Russia is under no illusions and is not expecting “rapid progress” from this week’s security talks with the United States and NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, adding that the Collective West does not understand Moscow.

“We have realistic expectations,” he told Interfax on Sunday, adding that it would be “naive” to believe that the negotiations would lead to visible – not to say “rapid” – progress.

“There is a good chance that… we are faced with the refusal of the United States and NATO to understand what we really need,” Ryabkov replied to another question from RIA Novosti. He also called the “signals” coming from Western capitals before the meetings “disappointing”.

If the United States and NATO again resort to pressure and threats instead of dialogue, it would only drive the talks to an impasse, Ryabkov warned.

At the same time, Ryabkov warned that the West should not try to derail the talks and that Moscow’s patience was limited, adding that the Kremlin would act decisively if it felt the talks were going nowhere. .

The Russian delegate arrived in Geneva on the afternoon of January 9 before the meetings scheduled for January 10 as part of the follow-up to the Geneva summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden on June 16. Russia insisted that senior US military personnel attend the summit.

This will be followed by a session of the Russia-NATO Council on January 12 – the first since 2019. On January 13, security consultations within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will then begin.

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