Not a Single NATO Member is Ready to Discuss Bloc's Open Door Policy With Russia, US Envoy Says
17:57 GMT 11.01.2022 (Updated: 14:12 GMT 13.01.2022)
Russian and US officials spoke for nearly eight hours in Geneva on Monday to discuss a pair of Russian security proposals Moscow says would dramatically ease tensions between Russia and the Western alliance. Among the proposals' points is a firm demand by Russia that NATO halt its decades-long eastward expansion.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will not drop its 'open door' policy on membership, and will pay no mind to Russia's request to limit troop and weapons deployments in countries which joined the bloc after 1997, Julianne Smith, US ambassador to NATO, has said.
"This alliance is not going to be rolling back time and returning to a completely different era where we had a very different alliance that was smaller, and a very different footprint. I think we're operating in today's world with NATO as it stands today, and I don't think anyone inside the NATO alliance is interested in going back in time to revisit an era where NATO looked a lot different than it does today," Smith said in a briefing Tuesday.
Calling Russia's prososed halt to the bloc's eastward push a "non-starter," the US diplomat stressed that America "will not allow anyone to slam NATO's open door policy shut."
At the same time, Smith claimed that NATO remains "open and committed to a meaningful, reciprocal dialogue with Russia."
"At this point, let me be very, very clear - no one is suggesting that we alter NATO policy on enlargement," Smith told CNN in a separate interview. "The doors remain open. No one has the right to kick the door shut. And any decision about enlargement will continue to rest between the NATO alliance and the country in question," the diplomat stressed.
"Frankly, I don't see a lot of compromise," Smith noted, referring to the enlargement issue.
Ukraine in the Membrane
The ambassador, who is expected to take part in talks in Brussels through the Russia-NATO Council on Wednesday, repeated the months-old claims about Russia's alleged preparations to "invade Ukraine."
"All of the allies are committed to engaging in a dialogue with Russia tomorrow. But simultneously, the allies are all united in messaging to the Russians that should they decide to further invade Ukraine, they would face massive consequences from NATO and also from the EU as well," Smith said.
Russia has dismissed months of claims by Western officials and media that it has any plans to "invade" its neighbour, and rejected Western "concerns" about Russian troop movements and exercises inside the country's own territory.
Biden press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that the president has been following the talks with Russia "pretty closely," and "receives nearly daily, if not daily, updates from his national security team on how the conversations are going, what the talks look like and what the status of those conversations is."
Asked to comment on the possibility of a new Biden-Putin phone call, Psaki said the White House would "assess where we go after" Wednesday's talks in Brussels, and the Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe meeting on Thursday.
Written Agreements This Time
Russia's Foreign Ministry published
a pair of draft security agreements in mid-December, with the proposals outlining a series of actions which could be taken to end the years-long crisis in relations between Russia and the West.
The proposals call on the parties not to deploy troops, missile systems, aircraft and warships in areas where they could be considered a threat to the other side, and ask the US and NATO to commit to halt the Western alliance's decades-long easterward expansion in Russia's direction, and not incorporate Ukraine into the bloc. Moscow also requests that NATO limit the numbers of troops and weapons deployed in countries that joined the bloc after 1997.
The Russian side has emphasized that the proposals should be considered in their totality, and that they are not a "menu" where it is possible for one side to pick and choose the options it likes.
Russia's firm insistance on halting NATO's expansion through a formal treaty is based on feelings of animosity over the West's broken promises not to expand after the end of the Cold War. In 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the bloc would not extend "one inch east" of a reunified Germany following the German Democratic Republic's annexation by the Federal Republic. In the decades that followed, every single member of the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact alliance, three republics of the former USSR, and four republics of the ex-Yugoslavia were incorporated into NATO, with the bloc also building up missile defence systems in Eastern Europe, claiming for some time that they were aimed against Iran.
31 January 2020, 16:43 GMT