Russia is set to lay out its demands for security guarantees in Europe to NATO’s 30 allies on Wednesday, following intense talks with the United States in Geneva that showed the two sides have major differences to bridge.
The NATO-Russia Council at allied headquarters in Brussels is part of a broader effort to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War, triggered primarily by a confrontation over Ukraine, which the United States says Russia is planning to invade.
Moscow dismisses such claims, though it is massing troops near the Ukrainian border.
NATO diplomats say the Western alliance is ready to negotiate with Moscow on increasing openness around military drills and to avoid accidental clashes that could spark conflict, as well as arms control regarding missiles in Europe.
But the NATO allies say that many of Russia’s demands, laid out in two draft treaties in December, are unacceptable, including calls to scale back the alliance’s activities to 1990s era levels and promising not to take in new members.
“Let’s be clear: Russian actions have precipitated this crisis. We are committed to using diplomacy to de-escalate the situation,” US envoy to NATO Julianne Smith told reporters on Tuesday evening.
“We want to see … Russia pulling back its forces,” she said of the 100 000 troops stationed near Ukraine.
Bridling at NATO’s expansion eastward into its old Soviet sphere of influence, the Kremlin sees the US-led alliance’s deterrents and military modernisation as a threat.
Russia staged live-fire exercises with troops and tanks near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday while sounding a downbeat note over prospects for more talks with the United States.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will chair Wednesday’s talks from 0900 GMT with the alliance’s 30 ambassadors and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
The allies are expected to voice concerns about what they say are covert and cyber attacks, as well as electoral interference, on the European Union and the United States.
Russia denies any wrongdoing.