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NATO, Russia hold high-level talks as Ukraine tensions simmer

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center, and Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, fourth right, arrive for the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, January 12, 2022. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center, and Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, fourth right, arrive for the NATO-Russia Council at NATO headquarters, in Brussels, January 12, 2022. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS — Senior NATO and Russian officials are meeting today to try to bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences over the future of Ukraine, amid deep skepticism that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security proposals for easing tensions are genuine.

The talks come during a week of high-stakes diplomacy and a US-led effort to prevent preparations for what Washington believes could be a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies it is planning an attack. Still, its history of military action in Ukraine and Georgia worries NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko and Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin are stern-faced as they pose for the media before the NATO-Russia Council. There is no public handshake, although the Russian delegation fist-bumps officials from the 30 NATO member countries inside the meeting venue.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman leads the US team at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg tweets that “it is a timely opportunity for dialogue at a critical moment for European security. When tensions are high, it is even more important that we sit down around the same table and address our concerns.”

The meeting is the first of its kind in over two years. The NATO-Russia Council, their chief forum for talks, was set up two decades ago but full meetings paused when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. It has met only sporadically since, the last time in July 2019.

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