Russia-NATO relations at critical level, Moscow warns
Ties between NATO and Russia have plummeted to an alarming low, the country’s Defense Ministry has warned, in the wake of discussions between the US-led military bloc and Moscow over security concerns on the European continent.
Speaking following a meeting between the two parties in Brussels on Wednesday, Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin stressed that Russia is counting on a constructive discussion of the proposed guarantees.
“The Russian side has repeatedly proposed to the [bloc] to take measures to de-escalate the situation,” the department’s press service quoted him as saying, adding that Moscow’s initiatives have been ignored.
The ministry cited the official as warning that “Russia-NATO relations are at a critically low level.” He added that “this creates preconditions for incidents and conflicts, as well as undermining the foundations of security."
Fomin’s remarks follow a summit between NATO representatives and Russian diplomats. On Wednesday, the military bloc’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told reporters that the two sides had a “frank and open discussion on a wide range of issues, of course focusing on tensions in and around Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg disclosed that NATO is prepared to schedule “a series of meetings on various topics, including restrictions on missile weapons in Europe” with Moscow.
He also said that NATO is interested “in finding opportunities to develop civil and military channels of communication, as well as the possibility of re-establishing the work of our missions in Moscow and Brussels.”
The veteran official made it clear, however, that the organization would not back down and compromise on what it considers to be its fundamental principles in order to appease Russia.
Moscow has requested written guarantees that Kiev will not be admitted to the bloc. However, Stoltenberg insisted that “only Ukraine and 30 allies can decide when Ukraine becomes a member ... Russia does not have a veto.”
Last month, Moscow sent two draft treaties – one addressed to Washington and the other to NATO – which included other requests concerning the movement of military personnel and hardware, as well as calls to resist further enlargement of the organization.
Relations between NATO and the world’s largest country have been increasingly strained in recent months. In November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said past dialogue between the two parties had proved fruitless, and that the military bloc was more interested in “whipping up propaganda and putting pressure on Russia” when it comes to Ukraine.
In October, Moscow announced it would suspend all direct bilateral ties with the bloc and shutter its offices in the capital city. The move came as a response to NATO's expulsion of eight Russian diplomats from its Brussels headquarters, believed to be over claims of involvement in undisclosed ‘espionage’, which Russia rejects.