Russia will keep the world in suspense for some time as to whether it will opt for escalation or deliberation in the crisis surrounding Ukraine.
NATO made an offer to Russia on Wednesday to start a series of talks on, among other things, arms control and transparency in military exercises. The Russian side said that it would take some time to come up with an answer. This was announced by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting of thirty NATO partners with a Russian delegation in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said differences of opinion between NATO and Russia remain huge and difficult to resolve. “It was not an easy discussion, but that is exactly why this meeting is so important,” the Secretary-General said.
Read also: There is no prospect of an agreement between the United States and Russia on Ukraine after consultations in Geneva
This is the second of three meetings between Russia and the West this week. On Monday, delegations from the United States and Russia are speaking in Geneva, and this Thursday there is a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna, a forum for East-West talks of 57 countries, of which Ukraine is also a member.
Russia forced the transfer of consultations by amassing an alarming number of troops on the border with Ukraine and putting a number of demands on the table that NATO not expand eastward and be active in Eastern Europe.
Stoltenberg emphasized that there was still a real danger of a new armed conflict in Europe, but that NATO, for its part, would do everything possible to prevent it, but without retreating from its principles.
Stoltenberg once again explicitly emphasized that it was not possible to discuss Russian demands that Ukraine never join NATO and that NATO should not station forces and weapons in Eastern Europe. Ukraine is a sovereign country that can decide for itself on membership. It is inconceivable that NATO distinguishes between first-class members in the West who are fully protected by the alliance and second-class members in the East who should make do with that. less.
Russia was represented in the meeting by the former Russian ambassador to NATO and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko. News agencies said he had said before the meeting that it was a “day of truth” for relations between Russia and the alliance.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said that Russia now faces a clear choice between de-escalation and consultation on the one hand and a conflict with far-reaching consequences on the other.
Sherman also said that if Russia opted for conflict in Ukraine, it could not imagine gas flowing through the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will carry gas from Siberia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The pipeline is ready, but not yet operational.
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of January 13, 2022
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