According to VG information, it is possible that NATO and its member states will refuse negotiations with Russia based on documents that would change the balance of power in Europe, as Russia demanded.
The starting point now being discussed on the western side is how the US and NATO can still meet with Russia to increase trust between the parties and thus reduce the risks of a military conflict over Ukraine.
– You feel more and more anxious. A security source on the west side tells VG that the situation is difficult and demanding.
NATO emergency meeting
On Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg convened an extraordinary meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers to coordinate Western interests.
For VG, the fear of a Russian attack on Ukraine is described as significant.
But because no one knows for sure President Vladimir Putin’s next step, there is a lot of tension and nervousness around the agreed meetings with Russian diplomats in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna in the next few days.
Expectations on the part of NATO are so low that only agreeing on new meetings of the NATO-Russia Council will be considered some kind of success, according to another source from the western side.
I believe Ukraine
The background to these meetings is that Russia – according to Western intelligence – has moved large military forces to the border areas with Ukraine.
Russia’s top leaders denied that there was an intention to cross the border into Ukraine. But in mid-December, Russia demanded immediate talks with NATO countries, and directly with the United States. Through two draft agreements.
For Russia, it’s not just about depriving Ukraine of NATO membership forever:
Among the demands are that NATO not occupy other new member states as well – and that the United States and the coalition withdraw their military forces from the new member states, the former Soviet republics, in the east.
On these points, there is not much room for negotiation, says a central source.
And two recent phone calls between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin did not lead to clear results or that the conflict escalated.
A force ready to conquer
NATO sources say they have intelligence that Russian forces in the immediate vicinity of Ukraine are a “credible invading force” that can attack the neighboring country with almost no warning time.
For months, Russia deployed a military force stationed in the invasion of western Ukraine. Once the power is in place, the demand for negotiations comes. The very difficult question now is whether such behavior should be rewarded, Anders Romarheim tells VG.
He heads the Center for International Security in the IFS Department of Defense Studies.
Putin is now asking the West to bow, but he risks being left empty-handed, and what will happen next? We haven’t been very close to a large-scale state war in Europe for many decades, says Romarheim.
VG is also aware that there is an internal debate in NATO about whether the alliance – as a condition for further talks – should ask Russia to start withdrawing its soldiers from the border with Ukraine.
Inner voices should have warned of that. Key NATO countries such as Germany, France, Italy and the United States are ready to engage in real talks with Russia, at least to test Russia’s willingness to choose diplomacy over weapons.
In NATO, the risk is considered high that the situation will quickly worsen, according to sources with whom VG spoke: if the Russian leadership believes that it will get nowhere – Russia will use “military-technical measures”, as president. Vladimir Putin threatened with?
series of meetings
On Friday, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is scheduled to consult with NATO foreign ministers in an extraordinary meeting. Then begins a series of meetings between Russia and the West.
As VG reported in December, NATO wanted to meet Russia in three different formats. Russia agreed to:
** On Sunday and Monday, delegations from the United States and Russia will meet in Geneva, led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Sergey Ryabkov.
** On Wednesday at 10 am, the Russian delegation arrives at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the first official meeting of the NATO Russia Council in a long time.
Russia announced that Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko is leading its delegation. He was Russia’s ambassador to NATO from 2012 to 2018. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin is also on record at the NATO Russia meeting.
** Next Thursday, meetings will be held in Vienna under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an organization in which both Russia and Ukraine are full members.
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