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NATO, Russia to hold crunch talks – with expectations low

Representatives of NATO and Russia are to hold high-stakes security talks on Wednesday amid a brewing crisis at eastern Ukraine's border, after a breakthrough proved elusive in similar meetings this week.

Brussels, 12 January 2022 (dpa/MIA) – Representatives of NATO and Russia are to hold high-stakes security talks on Wednesday amid a brewing crisis at eastern Ukraine’s border, after a breakthrough proved elusive in similar meetings this week.

The two sides are to meet for a NATO-Russia council, the first since 2019, at the western defence alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

At the top of the agenda for NATO are their fears that Russia could be preparing to launch a fresh incursion into Ukrainian territory, akin to 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Tens of thousands of Russian troops have amassed near the frontier in recent months.

Moscow in turn is expected to push its new security demands. Russia wants assurances that NATO will not expand further east, will reduce troops and weapons in Europe, and also that Ukraine will never join NATO – a major red line for the alliance and close partner Kiev.

Expectations for Wednesday’s talks are low, but NATO is hoping to draw Moscow into a sustained dialogue and stave off military escalation. Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said this week that a good outcome would be an agreement for further meetings.

The meeting comes after US-Russian talks on Monday in Geneva that were described as constructive by both sides, but brought no concrete agreements. NATO also held talks with Ukraine in Brussels the same day to prepare for Wednesday’s meeting with Russia.

The United States and its allies have threatened massive sanctions in the event of an invasion. Moscow says it has no plans for aggression.

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