Thursday May 19th, 2022 8:08PM

NATO, Russia in high-level talks as Ukraine tensions simmer

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman reaffirmed Wednesday that any European country should have the right to join NATO if it wants to, despite Russia's insistence that the military organization stop inviting new members in, particularly Ukraine.

“I reaffirmed the fundamental principles of the international system and of European security: Every country has the sovereign right to choose its own path,” Sherman tweeted, as senior NATO and Russian officials met to try to bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences over Ukraine's future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding that NATO stop accepting any new members.

The NATO-Russia Council is the first meeting of its kind in over two years. The forum was set up two decades ago but full meetings paused when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has met only sporadically since, the last time in July 2019.

The talks come during a week of high-stakes diplomacy and a U.S.-led effort to prevent preparations for what Washington believes could be a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies it is planning an attack. Still, its history of military action in Ukraine and Georgia worries NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin were stern-faced before the talks. There was no public handshake, although the Russian delegation fist-bumped officials from the 30 NATO member countries inside the meeting venue. Sherman led the U.S. team at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

With around 100,000 combat-ready Russian troops backed by tanks, artillery and heavy equipment massed near Ukraine’s eastern border, Wednesday’s gathering has taken on great significance, yet it still seems destined to fail.

“These are completely unacceptable proposals,” Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet told public broadcaster ERR on the eve of the talks. Estonia, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania, relies on U.S. security guarantees provided by its membership in NATO.

Putin says Russia’s demands are simple, but key parts of the proposals contained in the documents that Moscow has made public — a draft agreement with NATO countries and the offer of a treaty between Russia and the United States — won’t pass muster at the 30-country military organization.

NATO would have to agree to halt all membership plans, not just with Ukraine, and scale down its presence in countries like Estonia close to Russia’s borders. In exchange, Russia would pledge to limit its war games, as well as end aircraft buzzing incidents and other low-level hostilities.

Endorsing such an agreement would require NATO to reject a key part of its founding treaty. Under Article 10 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, the organization can invite in any willing European country that can contribute to security in the North Atlantic area and fulfill the obligations of membership.

“It has become crystal clear that not a single ally inside the NATO alliance is willing to budge or negotiate anything as it relates to NATO’s open door policy,” Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said Tuesday. “I cannot imagine any scenario where that is up for discussion.”

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia expects a quick answer.

“The situation regarding European security and our national interests has reached a critical line,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters, and he branded the organization “an instrument of confrontation.”

“The alliance has been conceived as such, and it’s how it has been organized and is developing now. It’s quite obvious, so the expansion of this mechanism poses a threat to us,” he said.

He declined to say what measures Russia might take if talks fail, saying that Moscow “wouldn’t like to issue threats and ultimatums and warn that others will pay a high price, as U.S. officials do,” Peskov said.

Maksim Samorukov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, says the lack of any real Russian concessions in Putin's draft agreement probably means that “Russia is ready to tolerate a failure of these negotiations.”

The idea, Samorukov said, is to “demonstrate to the West that we are serious, we mean business. That Russia is really ready to take drastic steps to impose these concessions” on the U.S.-led military organization.

Still, NATO can't afford to ignore Russia’s offer. Some members fear that Putin may be seeking a pretext to launch an invasion — like the failure of the West to engage — and any talks that would ease tensions over border forces, missile deployments or war games would be welcome.


Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, and Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
NATO, Russia in high-level talks as Ukraine tensions simmer
Top NATO and Russian officials are meeting to try to bridge deep differences over the future of Ukraine amid deep skepticism that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security proposals for easing tensions are genuine
3:08AM ( 5 minutes ago )
49ers executive Ran Carthon aims to run a team of his own
Ran Carthon has been preparing to be an NFL general manager decades before he even got involved with an NFL team studying the draft as a young kid who grew up with an NFL-playing father
3:00AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Scoring in NFL takes biggest drop in more than 40 years
The NFL’s steady increase in offensive production took a step back this season
2:55AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Australia's New South Wales sets new high for COVID deaths
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has made the reporting of rapid antigen test results mandatory as it experienced its deadliest day of the pandemic
10:40PM ( 4 hours ago )
Indonesia starts COVID boosters for elderly, others at risk
Indonesia has kicked off a COVID-19 booster campaign for the general public, prioritizing third shots for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems
10:35PM ( 4 hours ago )
Omicron may be headed for a rapid drop in US and Britain
Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically
4:40PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP World News
Old Florida Keys bridge reopens to pedestrians, bicyclists
A segment of a 110-year-old Florida Keys bridge is reopening to pedestrians and bicyclists following a $44 million restoration project
1:04AM ( 2 hours ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall St up as Powell says rates to rise
Asian stock markets have followed Wall Street higher after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said U.S. interest rates might be raised earlier than planned
12:56AM ( 2 hours ago )
Former Senate leader Harry Reid to lie in state at Capitol
Former Sen. Harry Reid will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol as colleagues and friends pay tribute to a hardscrabble Democrat who served five terms in the Senate
12:13AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
49ers executive Ran Carthon aims to run a team of his own
Ran Carthon has been preparing to be an NFL general manager decades before he even got involved with an NFL team studying the draft as a young kid who grew up with an NFL-playing father
3:00AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Scoring in NFL takes biggest drop in more than 40 years
The NFL’s steady increase in offensive production took a step back this season
2:55AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Once a near COVID-free utopia, Australia sees omicron surge
The omicron variant of the coronavirus has swept across Australia despite its high vaccination rate and strict border policies that kept the country largely sealed off from the world for almost two years
2:41AM ( 32 minutes ago )
China's Tianjin orders more testing on 14 million residents
The northern Chinese city of Tianjin has ordered a second round of COVID-19 testing on all 14 million residents after multiple cases of the omicron strain were found during initial screenings that began Sunday
2:41AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Djokovic clarifies movements, Australian visa saga continues
Novak Djokovic has moved to clarify how mistakes were made on the immigration document he submitted on his arrival in Melbourne as a COVID-19 vaccination saga continues to overshadow the days leading up to the Australian Open
2:32AM ( 41 minutes ago )