It was necessary to look for it with attention, but there was indeed “A positive signal”, in the words of the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, during the NATO-Russia Council which was held on Wednesday January 12 in Brussels. This “signal” praised by Jens Stoltenberg is that a discussion took place, since this body met – for the first time since July 2019 -, and that it did not lead to a rupture.
For the rest, the negotiators of the two parties agreed, the gap remained yawning between the positions of the thirty allies and their Russian interlocutor, both on a possible halt to the enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance and on the demand for a withdrawal of NATO forces from the territory of countries that joined after 1997 – i.e. eleven states in total, which became members between 1999 and 2017.
“The differences will be difficult to overcome”, admitted Mr. Stoltenberg after the meeting, caused by the constant rise in tensions around Ukraine and the Russian initiative in favor of an overhaul of the European security order. One of the two main Russian negotiators, Alexander Grushko, Deputy Foreign Minister, judged these differences “Fundamental”. But Russian diplomacy had previously reported measured expectations, true to its antiphon which wants the sole decision-maker in European affairs to be in Washington.
On Wednesday, during a press briefing, Mr. Grouchko spoke of an exchange “Frank and clear as ever”, but without mentioning any progress. He laid out at length the foundations of Moscow’s position, which arose in reaction to the political “Containment” of Russia led, according to him, by NATO.
It all depends on Putin
The answer to Moscow’s main request, stopping enlargement, is the same as that provided on Monday by the American side, during bilateral discussions with Russia held in Geneva. Repeated with one voice by the thirty members of the Alliance, this response is akin to an end of inadmissibility. As for the attempt to impose negotiations with the United States alone, it encountered a veto: Wendy Sherman, the American negotiator, strongly insisted, at the end of the meeting in Brussels, on the fact that the NATO unit was ” total “. She told Europeans – and Ukrainians: “The United States won’t decide anything about you without you. “
Everything now depends on Vladimir Putin, suggested – rightly – Mr.me Sherman. After two high-level meetings, in Geneva and Brussels, the positions are clearly set out and the West has made it known that they are only ready to discuss one of the three main Russian demands: the limitation of future deployments of NATO in territories where they could be considered by Moscow as threatening. Mr Stoltenberg suggests, in this regard, further discussions on missiles and their use on European soil “In a verifiable and reciprocal manner”. Most “The Russian side made it clear that they were not ready”, did he declare.
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