Saturday

22nd Jan 2022

Nato and Russia in talks to reopen embassies

  • Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko shook hands with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman (Photo: nato.int)
Listen to article

Nato and Russia are in talks to reopen their embassies in Brussels and Moscow amid Western efforts to dial down tension on Ukraine.

Nato has also offered to hold meetings to discuss new rules on military drills and missile deployments in Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "It is Russia that is the aggressor ... This crisis is a making of Russia," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said (Photo: nato.int)

But Russia's intentions remained unclear and its troop build-up on Ukraine's borders continued on Wednesday (12 January).

"We have made it clear ... that we [would like to] actually reopen, re-establish, both the Nato office in Moscow and also the Russia mission to Nato because we believe in dialogue," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting of the Nato-Russia Council in Brussels, the first such event in over two years.

"At the same time, both Russia and Nato allies expressed the need to resume dialogue and to explore a schedule of future meetings," even if the embassies remained defunct, he added.

Russia, last year, closed its Nato embassy and ordered Nato to shut its office in Moscow after Nato expelled eight Russian spies from Brussels.

It also asked Nato to forbid future membership to Ukraine and Georgia and to pull allied troops out of the Baltic States and Poland.

These "core principles of European security" were not up for discussion, Stoltenberg said.

"We will not compromise on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every nation in Europe ... and will not compromise on the right for allies to protect and defend each other," he said.

But future meetings could discuss "transparency of military exercises" and "reciprocal limitations on missiles", including medium-range nuclear missiles, in Europe, he noted.

"Russia was not in a position to agree on that proposal. They didn't rejected it either. But the Russian representatives made it clear that they needed some time to come back to Nato with an answer," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian delegation was headed by deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko, its former ambassador to Nato.

He said little to press on Wednesday.

"We are deeply convinced that this [a new treaty on missile deployments] would meet the interests of all countries," he told Russian news agency Tass.

But Grushko spoke in friendly tones inside the four-hour long meeting, a Nato source said. He also shook hands with US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman before the talks began.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in Moscow the same day that "the situation regarding European security and our national interests has reached a critical line".

He also called Nato "an instrument of confrontation".

The talks are to continue in Vienna on Thursday at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes all EU countries as well as Ukraine, but not EU institutions, which have been excluded from the process for the time being.

And for all the handshakes and smiles on Wednesday, Stoltenberg noted that "the military build-up we see in and around Ukraine ... continues".

This included "around 100,000 troops, artillery, armour, drones, tens of thousands of combat-ready troops, and threatening rhetoric," he said.

"There is a real risk for a new armed conflict in Europe," he added.

"We have to be prepared for that - that Russia once again chooses confrontation. And therefore we also made it very clear that any use of force against Ukraine will be a severe and serious strategic mistake," Stoltenberg said.

"If Russia once again uses force ... we have to seriously look into the need to further increase our presence in the eastern part of the alliance," he added.

He hit back at Russian propaganda that Ukraine posed a threat to Russia and that Nato expansion undermined Russian security.

"The whole idea that, in a way, Ukraine threatens Russia is absolutely to put the whole thing upside down. It is Russia that is the aggressor," he said.

"This crisis is a making of Russia," he added.

"This idea that, for instance, Nato enlargement is aggressive, is absolutely not true. Nato enlargement has been a cornerstone for the spread of democracy and freedom across Europe," Stoltenberg said.

EU warns against Ukraine talks without Europe

The German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Washington that "it is out of the question, and let me make this very clear - there cannot be a decision on the security in Europe without Europe."

Investigation

Exposed: Who were Russia's spies at Nato HQ?

A lieutenant colonel with top-level Kremlin links, a spy-catcher, and a Big Data specialist - the identities of eight Russians recently expelled by Nato shed light on the espionage threat in Brussels.

Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia

Emmanuel Macron also took hits from French political opponents, including the Green party presidential challenger MEP Yannick Jadot in the European Parliament ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in France in April.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Column

An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present

Competition is fierce and getting African leaders' attention is no easy task. US president Joe Biden has his own Africa summit, and Turkey, Japan, Russia and - most importantly - China, also have Africa forums up and running.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us