The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) offered more talks with Russia on Wednesday amid "significant differences" between the alliance and Moscow on the latter’s security demands.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made the comment in a news conference after chairing a meeting of the NATO-Russia council, which was convened as the U.S. and European allies seek to prevent a second Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Wednesday’s meeting was “not an easy discussion,” Stoltenberg said. “But that is exactly why this meeting was so important.”
“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues. Our differences will not be easy to bridge,” he continued. “But it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia sat down around the same table, and engaged on substantive topics.”
The meeting was the second of three diplomatic engagements planned this week to discuss Russia’s draft security demands amid Moscow amassing over 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine.
Officials from the U.S. and Russia met in Geneva on Monday for a Strategic Security Dialogue, and a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Permanent Council is scheduled for Thursday.
Moscow, which has repeatedly denied intentions of invading Ukraine, is demanding that NATO deny Ukraine membership into the alliance and not deploy any forces to areas that were not members of the alliance before 1997.
The alliance is “ready to meet again with Russia to have discussions in greater detail, to put concrete proposals on the table, and to seek constructive outcomes,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Specifically, allies want to discuss increasing the transparency of military exercises and reducing space and cyber threats.
The alliance also offered to look at arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation. This included Moscow’s demands for both sides to limit launching missiles and addressing nuclear policies.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation to Wednesday’s meeting and Monday’s meeting between Washington and Moscow, told reporters that Russia didn’t commit nor reject the alliance’s offers to follow up on talks.
“Allies made clear that they will not renounce their ability to protect and defend each other,” Stoltenberg said. “At the same time, both Russia and NATO allies expressed the need to resume dialogue and to explore a schedule of future meetings.”