No progress was made during a meeting between NATO and Russia in Brussels on Wednesday as the US and NATO are rejecting a key Russian demand to halt the military alliance’s eastward expansion. But according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, both sides are open to further talks.
Stoltenberg said during the meeting, NATO members and Russia “expressed the need to resume dialogue and to explore a schedule of future meetings.”
The NATO chief said there are “significant differences” between the military alliance concerning Ukraine. “Our differences will not be easy to bridge, but it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia sat down around the same table and engaged on substantive topics,” he said.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman represented the US at the meeting and echoed Stoltenberg’s comments. She said some of Russia’s security proposals were “non-starters” but maintained that there are still issues the two sides can negotiate on, including arms control.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, who led the Russian delegation in Brussels, had some positive things to say about the talks despite the US and NATO’s stance.
“I think that [this meeting] was absolutely essential. Firstly, it was some sort of a shake-up. If the meeting had not taken place, it would have been impossible to bring up these issues in full action,” Grushko said, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.
Russia wants the US and NATO to rescind a promise that was first made in 2008 that Ukraine would eventually become a member of NATO. When Viktor Yanukovych was president of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014, Kyiv joining NATO was not a concern. But Yanukovych was ousted in a US-backed coup in 2014, and ever since, NATO has significantly increased its cooperation with Ukraine.
On Thursday, the diplomacy between Russia and the West will continue at a meeting of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. While no breakthroughs have been made, the flurry of diplomacy and willingness to continue dialogue is a sign that the tensions around Ukraine and elsewhere in the region likely won’t lead to further conflict.