Moscow-NATO relations are approaching the “moment of truth”: Russian official

Moscow said Russia-NATO relations are approaching a “moment of truth” before high-level talks on Ukraine take place.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko’s remarks on Tuesday followed negotiations between Russian and American officials in Geneva, who had started a diplomatic week the day before to ease tensions.

A meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will take place in Brussels on Wednesday.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a moment of truth in our relations with the Alliance,” Grushko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“Our expectations are absolutely realistic and we hope that this will be a serious and in-depth conversation about key, fundamental problems of European security,” he added, referring to the talks in Brussels.

Washington and Kiev say Moscow has stationed an estimated 100,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border in the past few months, eight years after capturing the Crimean peninsula from its neighbor.

The military action has raised fears of a further Russian incursion in Ukraine and in the White House of US President Joe Biden and, if attacked, has led to threats of Western sanctions against Moscow.

For its part, Moscow denies planning an invasion and is demanding far-reaching concessions from Washington and its NATO allies, most of which have already been labeled non-starters by the Western powers.

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Grushko said Russia would require the alliance to provide a full response to its proposals.

“We will push for a concrete, substantive, article-by-article response to the Russian draft guarantee agreement,” he said.

Russia’s demands, presented in December, aim to contain the US and NATO in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The US-led alliance should not accept Ukraine or Georgia as new members or establish bases in former Soviet countries.

After more than seven hours of negotiations in Geneva on Monday, Russian and US officials offered to continue speaking, although there was no immediate breakthrough.

Moscow remained skeptical of progress on Tuesday and insisted on sticking to its position – that it would not allow its demands to sink into tortuous negotiations.

“We will not be satisfied with the endless dragging out of this process,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov’s remarks came after US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda-Thomas Greenfield, told Al Jazeera on Monday that she “wanted” to believe Russia’s claim that it was not planning an invasion of Ukraine.

“But everything we’ve seen so far indicates that they are filing motions in this direction,” she said during a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.

“If, because of our engagement with them over the past few weeks, they have decided not to move forward … then that’s fine, but we will continue to prepare and plan how they should react if they take action against Ukraine. ”

The talks on Wednesday will be followed by a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on Thursday.

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