Representatives of NATO and Russia
are set to hold a formal meeting for the first time since ties between the two sides strained in 2014 over the crisis in Ukraine
A NATO spokeswoman on Tuesday confirmed that ambassadors from the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) would hold their first meeting in almost two years on April 20 at the Brussels headquarters of NATO.
The spokeswoman, whose name was not mentioned in the report, said the meeting “is not a return to business as usual, but we do need dialogue.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
recently said there was little chance of a return to “business as usual” with a new powerful Russia at the upcoming meeting.
“This meeting is the continuation of our political dialogue,” Stoltenberg said in a press release on April 8. “At the same time, there will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law.”
Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko has said Moscow’s relations with NATO will not improve unless the Western military alliance adopts a new policy regarding Russia. Grushko said no one should expect a breakthrough in diplomatic relations when representatives from the two sides meet in Brussels next week.
The agenda of the upcoming meeting includes the implementation of the ceasefire deal in Ukraine, known as Minsk 2, NATO’s military activity and the security situation in Afghanistan. NATO has made it clear that any meeting with Russia will have to address the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia fighters in eastern Ukraine.
However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Monday that the two sides will also discuss NATO’s military built up near Russia’s borders.
“The sides will discuss threats from unprecedented NATO military forces buildup, including in the regions bordering with Russia,” Zakharova said, adding, “We will establish further dialogue basing on real NATO actions and in strict compliance with the alliance’s readiness to the equal cooperation towards peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
In recent months, NATO has accelerated its biggest military build-up in eastern Europe
since the Cold War.
NATO says it has been attempting to resume meetings between the Russians and NATO ambassadors since December last year.
The NRC was established in 2002 in order to create a forum for talks on security issues between Russia and NATO members.
Relations between Russia and NATO specially soured after Crimea rejoined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.
The United States and its European allies accuse Moscow of destabilizing Ukraine and have imposed a number of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects having a hand in the Ukrainian crisis.