NATO rejects Russian request for ‘second class’

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NATO’s secretary general has rejected the creation of “second-rate” members of the military alliance to appease Moscow, ahead of a week of high-stakes diplomacy between the Kremlin and Western powers aimed at avoiding a formidable Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia will hold talks with the United States and NATO next week to discuss security proposals made by Moscow, including a ban on Ukraine joining a US-led military alliance and vetoing the Kremlin’s military deployment in member states close to Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the two proposals were unacceptable, following an extraordinary meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers convened to discuss upcoming talks with Russia.

“We cannot end up in a situation where we have second-class NATO members, where NATO as an alliance is not allowed to protect them,” he told a news conference.

Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine in recent months, a force the U.S. says could be used to attack the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any plans to invade, but warned that Moscow could take military action if its security proposals are ignored.

Stoltenberg suggested that arms control measures and possible confidence-building initiatives between NATO and Moscow are possible areas for agreement.

“We are ready to participate in arms control with Russia, conventional and nuclear, but it must be reciprocal,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then [to] imposing unilateral restrictions. “

Putin’s proposal would require NATO to reject a a key part of its founding treaty, according to which the organization can invite any European country willing to join it if it contributes to security in the North Atlantic area.

The Russian delegation will meet with US officials in Geneva on Monday, before traveling to Brussels on Wednesday for a meeting with NATO. Russia will also take part in a broader debate hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Thursday.

The NATO meeting was held after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would talk to Putin in the “coming days”. The EU should start talks with Russia, Macron told reporters in Paris, adding that dialogue does not mean giving in.

The EU is on the sidelines of next week’s talks and continues to fight to develop a clear voice on Ukraine’s stalemate or to engage in talks aimed at resolving it. This left key powers including Germany and France as major European interlocutors.

The primary tool for resolving the crisis should not be of a military nature, but a diplomatic tool and dialogue, the French official added, insisting that European capitals show a “coherent and united” approach.

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