NATO and Russia establish dialogue on troops on the border with Ukraine

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NATO said Tuesday that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg scheduled a meeting for next week between Western ambassadors and Moscow officials to try to defuse tensions over the accumulation of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine.

The NATO-Russia Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday January 12 in Brussels, two days after US and Russian officials begin bilateral security talks in Geneva.

Western allies fear that Moscow, which has amassed 100,000 troops along Ukraine's eastern flank, is preparing to invade the former Soviet republic. Russia is seeking assurances that NATO will not agree to Ukraine's request for membership in the Western military alliance and will withdraw its military involvement in central and eastern Europe.

NATO, which now has 30 countries, including the United States, Canada and 28 in Europe, said its foreign ministers would hold a video conference on Friday in preparation for next week's meetings with Moscow.

US President Joe Biden rejected a military response in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but told Russian President Vladimir Putin that The United States and its allies would impose sanctions economic significance, far beyond what they applied when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in 2014.

The United States has been sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, along with Javelin missiles that it says should be used only for defense.

The Kremlin said last week that Putin warned Biden that new US sanctions on Russia could lead to a complete breakdown in Washington-Moscow relations.

A NATO official said of the January 12 meeting that "any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO concerns about Russia's actions ... and take place in consultation. with NATO's European partners. "

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, confirmed that Russian officials will attend the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other top Russian officials are expected to attend the Brussels talks, after meeting with US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Geneva.

On January 13, the talks will continue in the broader format of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

The EU's position

Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, flew to Ukraine on Tuesday for a two-day trip to show his support for Kiev. Biden and other US officials have also assured Ukraine of their support in the confrontation with Moscow.

Borrell, who was instrumental in the EU's strategy to increase sanctions on top Russian officials in 2021, believes that "the EU cannot be a neutral bystander in the negotiations if Russia really wants to discuss Europe's security architecture." according to an EU spokesperson.

The European Union views Ukraine as a "strategic partner," the spokesman said.

Borrell, accompanied by Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, will visit Ukraine's front line with Russian-backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine during his visit.

The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, spoke to the Eastern Allies NATO on Monday on the military strengthening of Russia along the Ukrainian border, and called for a "united" position of NATO.

In a phone call with his counterparts in nine eastern NATO countries, known as the Bucharest Nine, Blinken said the United States was committed to "consulting and coordinating closely with all of our transatlantic allies and partners as we work to reduce escalation, through deterrence, advocacy and dialogue, ”according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Blinken called for "a united NATO position, ready and determined for the collective defense of the allies ", according to Price.

In addition, Blinken "underscored America's unwavering commitment" to NATO Article 5, which calls for the joint defense of any member of the seven-decade-old military alliance that was formed after World War II.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but has applied to join the alliance for more than a decade, a stance that has infuriated Russia.

In a phone call Sunday, Biden told Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the United States and its allies would "respond decisively" if Russia invaded Ukraine.

But biden little progress has been made for Putin to withdraw troops stationed along Russia's border with the former Soviet republic, though US officials have said they do not believe Putin has decided to invade Ukraine.

With information from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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