NATO is on guard against Russian security requirements ahead of next week’s negotiations

BRUSSELS, January 7 (Reuters) – NATO foreign ministers said on Friday that they remained united against any possible Russian military action in Ukraine, signaling that many security demands made by the Kremlin were unacceptable.

The 30 ministers held a video call ahead of the US-Russia negotiations in Geneva on Monday, which will be followed by a NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels and broader negotiations in Vienna, prompted by Moscow’s demands for security guarantees.

“Foreign ministers from all NATO countries reaffirmed our unity in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine at today’s extraordinary session,” the US mission told the Atlantic Alliance.

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Russia has deployed a large number of troops near the border with Ukraine and wants legally binding guarantees that NATO will halt its eastern enlargement and end military cooperation with the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia.

Moscow rejects US proposals that it plans to invade Ukraine and instead accuses Kiev of building its forces in the eastern part of the country.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the call with Foreign Ministers, welcomed the prospect of talks with Moscow next week after months in which both sides have accused the other of endangering peace and stability in Europe.

But at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg added: “The idea that Ukraine is a threat to Russia is to turn it all upside down.”

“Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. I think, if anything, it is the idea of ​​a democratically stable Ukraine that is a challenge for them,” he said.

Officials of the Ukrainian Armed Forces march near the dividing line of Russian-backed rebels outside the city of Popasna in the Luhansk region, Ukraine on January 6, 2022. REUTERS / Maksim Levin

In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States and its allies were willing to hear Russia’s legitimate concerns and try to address them, “if the Kremlin is prepared to retaliate for its own dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

Blinken also pushed back on what he called a “false narrative”, driven by Moscow that it was NATO and Ukraine that provoked tensions with Russia. Read more

OPEN DOOR

There is no prospect that either Ukraine and Georgia – both of which have territorial disputes with Moscow – will join NATO soon. But Stoltenberg said the accession of northern Macedonia and Montenegro showed that “NATO’s door remains open”.

Stoltenberg added that it would be unacceptable to veto Russia over which countries could join the US-led alliance in the future.

“We can not end up in a situation where we have second-rate NATO members, where NATO as an alliance must not protect them,” he said.

On Twitter, the foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Belgium and Slovakia shared this view, saying that NATO could not dilute its key principles or values.

NATO wants Moscow to re-engage in a peace process in eastern Ukraine, in which about 15,000 people have been killed in a seven-year conflict between Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed separatists.

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Reporting by Robin Emmott; Additional reporting by John Chalmers and Simon Lewis; Edited by Gareth Jones and Grant McCool

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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