Russia will hold the world in suspense for some time as to whether it will opt for escalation or consultation in the crisis surrounding Ukraine.
NATO on Wednesday offered Russia to open a series of talks on, among other things, arms control and transparency in military exercises. The Russian side said it would take some time to find an answer. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced this after a meeting of NATO’s thirty partners with a Russian delegation in Brussels.
The differences of opinion between NATO and Russia are still huge and difficult to bridge, Stoltenberg said. “It was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why this meeting was so important,” said the secretary general.
Read also : No prospect of a deal between the US and Russia on Ukraine after consultations in Geneva
It was the second of three meetings between Russia and the West this week. On Monday, the delegations of the United States and Russia spoke in Geneva, this Thursday there is an OSCE meeting in Vienna, a forum for the East-West talks of 57 countries, of which Ukraine is also member.
Russia has forced the consultation to pass by assembling an alarming number of troops on the border with Ukraine and putting on the table a number of demands that NATO should not expand eastward. and be active in Eastern Europe.
Stoltenberg underlined that there is always a real danger of a new armed conflict in Europe, but that NATO, for its part, will do everything possible to prevent it, but without going back on its principles.
Russia demands that Ukraine never join NATO and that NATO not station troops and weapons in Eastern Europe, Stoltenberg again explicitly said, cannot be argued. Ukraine is a sovereign state which can decide on its own membership and it is inconceivable that NATO would distinguish between first class members in the west who enjoy the full protection of the alliance and members second class in the east who have to settle for less.
day of truth
Russia was represented at the meeting by former Russian Ambassador to NATO and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko. Before the meeting, he said it was “the day of truth” for relations between Russia and the alliance, news agencies said.
US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russia now faces a clear choice between de-escalation and consultation on the one hand and conflict with far-reaching consequences on the other.
Sherman also said that if Russia opted for a conflict in Ukraine, it could not imagine gas passing through the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will bring gas from Siberia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The pipeline is ready, but not yet commissioned.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on January 13, 2022
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of January 13, 2022