BRUSSELS, January 12. /TASS/. The first meeting of the Russia-NATO Council over the past two and a half years on Russia’s security initiatives began in Brussels, a TASS correspondent reported from the alliance’s headquarters on Wednesday.
The sides refrained from opening statements. However, the meeting began in quite a warm atmosphere. Russian Delegation Head, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko shook hands with US Top Delegate, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman before the meeting.
The Russian top delegate greeted the other participants in the meeting - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and permanent representatives of 30 NATO member states - with fist bumps in compliance with COVID requirements. The participants in the meeting are wearing masks and took them off only for the official photo ceremony.
Grushko is well familiar with the alliance’s headquarters as he worked as Russia’s envoy to NATO in 2012-2018. He was Moscow’s last representative at the alliance. After his departure from Brussels and before the closure of the Russian mission in October 2021, it was headed by a charge d’affaires in the absence of a substantive dialogue with NATO.
In addition to Grushko, the work of the Russian delegation is directed by Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin. The talks at the Russia-NATO Council marked the second stage of consultations between Russia and Western countries on security. The meeting is a follow-up of the negotiations between Russia and the United States held in Geneva on January 10. Also, a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council will take place in Vienna on January 13.
NATO issued accreditation for the personal presence of a limited number of reporters and, therefore, those who failed to get into the press office in the building of the alliance’s headquarters have to observe the encounter from the outside.
About 20 reporters from Russian and foreign media outlets have lined up at the entrance to the alliance’s headquarters. Some of them are jotting down their stories while others are waiting. Drizzling rain and an air temperature of 3 degrees Celsius also do not help their work.
NATO ready to hear
As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Representative to NATO Julianne Smith said earlier, the Western-led bloc is ready to hear Russia’s concerns and is ready to begin an open and reasonable dialogue but is not ready for compromises, especially on the issues of its expansion.
Moscow’s security demands are addressed to the United States and European nations. Moscow has not sent them to such international organizations as the European Union (EU) and NATO. In a broad outline, Russia’s stance boils down to three key points: the pullout of US nuclear weapons from Europe, the termination of the practice of deploying NATO’s conventional forces near Russia’s borders and creating its military infrastructure there and NATO’s official refusal to draw Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance.
In Moscow’s opinion, these measures will help remedy a serious imbalance in security in Europe that emerged after the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. This will help considerably ease the military and political tension and rejoin the baseline principle affirmed by all of the OSCE member states at their Istanbul summit in 1999 that the security of one state or a group of states cannot be ensured at the expense of the security of other states.