Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded that the military alliance of 30 countries stop expanding and pull troops and military equipment out of Russia and neighboring countries like Ukraine. He also asked for NATO allies such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to do so.
After a NATO-Russia Council meeting, U.S. Secretary Wendy Sherman stated that some of Putin’s security demands were "non-starters."
After nearly four hours of negotiations at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, she said that "We won't slam shut on NATO's Open-door Policy." "We don't agree that NATO can expand further.
This meeting was the first in its kind in more than two years. It was called amid deep concern in the West about Russia's plans to invade Ukraine. Around 100,000 combat-ready troops, tanks, and heavy military equipment are now positioned near Ukraine’s eastern border.
Sherman stated that "Escalation doesn't create the optimal conditions for diplomacy to say the very least."
Russia denies having new plans to attack its neighbor.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and supported a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. In seven years, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict and it has also destroyed Ukraine's industrial heartland known as Donbas. The sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union on Russia for their actions against Ukraine have been criticized by both the United States and the European Union.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presided over the meeting. He stated that Russian envoys and NATO nations "expressed the need for dialogue to resume and to explore a program of future meetings." Sherman expressed optimism given that Moscow has not rejected talks.
Stoltenberg stated that NATO is open to discussing ways to prevent military incidents and accidents, reduce cyber threats, and talk about arms control, disarmament, and setting limits on missile deployments.
Stoltenberg stated that any negotiations about Ukraine would not be easy.
After what he described as a "very serious and direct exchange" between him and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, he stated that there were "significant differences between NATO allies (Russia) on this issue".
Stoltenberg stressed that Ukraine is entitled to make its own security decisions and that NATO would continue opening its doors to new members. This was in direct contravention to a demand made by Putin for the military organization to stop its expansion.
He stated that "Noone else has anything to add, and of course Russia doesn't have a right to veto."
Since July 2019, the NATO-Russia Council was its first meeting. Although the forum was established two decades ago, full meetings were halted in 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Since then, it has only met sporadically.
Putin claims Russia's demands were simple. However, key parts of Moscow's documents -- a draft agreement between NATO countries and an offer for a treaty between Russia & the United States -- were made public by Moscow.
NATO would need to end all plans to join, not just Ukraine. It also needs to scale back its presence in Estonia, which is close to Russia's borders. Russia would be required to end its war games and cease aircraft buzzing.
NATO would have to deny a key clause in its founding treaty that states it can invite any European country willing to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic region and meet the obligations of membership to endorse such an agreement.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, warned Moscow that Russia is expecting a prompt response.
Peskov stated that "the situation regarding European security has reached a critical point" and called NATO "an instrument for confrontation".
He stated, "It's quite evident, so the expansion mechanism poses a danger to us."
Peskov refused to discuss the possible measures Russia might take in case talks fail. He said that Moscow would not like to make threats or ultimatums to warn that others will be paying a high price, just as U.S. officials do.
In the U.S. Senate Democrats have released a White House-backed bill ratcheting up sanctions against Russia for sending troops across the Ukrainian border. These measures would be taken against Putin, his top civil and military leaders as well as leading Russian financial institutions.