NATO-Russia talks end in ‘dissent’

epa05268598 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the press ahead of a meeting with Russian ambassadors at the Alliance headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, 20 April 2016. This is the first time that a dialogue takes place between NATO and Russia after the Russians bombed Ukraine in 2014.  EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ


Brussels / AFP
NATO and Russia ran up against “profound disagreements” over Ukraine and other issues as their ambassadors met on Wednesday for the first time since 2014, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said.
The two sides agreed to keep communicating following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which has been on ice since the alliance cut practical ties with Moscow to protest the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014.
“I think we had a very frank, serious and actually good meeting,” Stoltenberg told a news conference after the talks, adding that both sides had “listened to what each other has to say.”
But former Norwegian prime minister Stoltenberg stressed that “NATO and Russia have profound and persistent disagreements”.
He admitted they were far from any breakthrough on easing tensions over the simmering violence still gripping eastern Ukraine.
“There were profound disagreements related to the crisis with Ukraine,” he said. “During the meeting it was reconfirmed we disagree on the facts, the narrative and the repsonsibilties for the crisis in and around Ukraine.”
‘Pressure on Russia’
Relations have also worsened in recent months over Moscow’s air campaign in Syria and tensions have flared in the past week after two incidents involving the US military and Russian planes in the Baltic Sea.
Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Alexander Grushko, insisted after the meeting with the 28 NATO ambassadors that it was the US-led alliance that was to blame for increasing military activities on Russia’s flank.
“For us it is absolutely clear that without real steps on NATO’s side to downgrade the military activity in areas adjacent to the Russian Federation, it will not be possible to engage in any meaningful dialogue on confidence building measures,” he told reporters.
Grushko also said Russian planes had buzzed the American missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea last week because it had sailed near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave in northern Europe. “This is about not the military activity but attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia,” he said, comparing it to a hostile ship sailing close to the US coast or in the Gulf of Mexico.
The United States called the incident a “simulated attack” on the ship.
Stoltenberg said it was important to “keep channels of communication open” in both military and political terms, adding that it was necessary for “risk reduction”.
“We all agree that it is in all our interest to keep channels for political dialogue open. It is both necessary and useful, especially in times of tensions as we experience now,” the NATO chief added. “However, this does not mean that we are back to business as usual.”
Fears the two sides could become embroiled in violence have grown since Russia started a bombing campaign in Syria, particularly after alliance member Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on its border in November.
Russia blames NATO for increasing the risk of conflict by building up its troops in eastern European countries, many of which have been lobbying for more Western support. Ahead of the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was NATO that had frozen relations and that the alliance had “judged it necessary to contact us again”.
Ahead of the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was NATO that had frozen relations and that the alliance had “judged it necessary to contact us again”.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend