Putin has pressured NATO to withdraw its troops and military equipment from countries bordering Russia, which includes Ukraine, but also NATO allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and has demanded that the military alliance of 30 nations agree not to admit more members in Eastern Europe.
His demand was rejected at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on Wednesday, although the Russian delegation did not leave the negotiations and remained open to the prospect of future discussions.
After the crunchy negotiations, Foreign Minister Liz Truss said in a statement: “Britain and our allies made it clear to Russia that its military build-up on the border with Ukraine and in illegally annexed Crimea is unacceptable. We condemn Russia’s aggression and destabilizing activity.
“A further military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake and would come at a serious cost to Russia’s economy, including coordinated sanctions. The swamp of a protracted conflict would cost lives and harm communities on both sides. This is the reality of armed conflict as we have seen before. “
She added: “Britain and our allies are united in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we are pushing back against the threatening behavior of the Kremlin.
“What happens next will be crucial for peace and security in Europe. The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate and engage in meaningful discussions.”
US Secretary of State Wendy Sherman reaffirmed that some of Putin’s security requirements are “simply non-starters.”
“We do not want to slam the door on NATO’s open door policy,” she told reporters after nearly four hours of talks. “We will not agree that NATO can not expand further.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the meeting, said NATO nations and Russian envoys both “expressed the need to resume dialogue and explore a timetable for future meetings.”
“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia” on the issue of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, Stoltenberg told reporters after what he said was “a very serious and direct exchange” with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin.
Ukraine has the right to determine its future security arrangements, and “Russia does not have a veto,” he said.
Sir. Grushko said: “If NATO chooses the policy of deterrence, we will respond with a policy of deterrence.
“If it turns into intimidation, we will respond with counter-intimidation. If it looks for vulnerabilities in Russia’s defense system, we will look for NATO’s vulnerabilities. It is not our choice, but we have no other options if we do not overturn this current very dangerous course of events. ”
Additional reporting from agencies