The meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) comes as the two sides are stuck in deadlock, with fears mounting that Russia could launch an invasion into Ukraine.
Moscow has dismissed such claims. However, Russia has been amassing as many as 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian frontier, and on the eve of the talks, the military began live-fire drills in regions close to the border.
The United States, NATO and their allies are pushing Russia to de-escalate the situation. Moscow has demanded security guarantees from the US and NATO, including a binding pledge that NATO won’t expand further east and will not allow Ukraine to join the military alliance — something NATO is not willing to do.
“At this point, let me be very, very clear — no one is suggesting that we alter NATO policy on enlargement,” US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith told CNN on Tuesday.
Rather than being framed as a bilateral NATO-Russia meeting, Wednesday’s gathering will see each of NATO’s 30 member states and Russia represented equally, in a forum of 31. The meeting is the second of three key engagements between the West and Russia this week.
On Monday, representatives from the US and Russia sat down in Geneva for more than seven hours of discussions.
The marathon talks, which the White House described as “frank and forthright,” did not produce a breakthrough. Another round of talks between Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) — of which the US is a member — are scheduled in Vienna on Thursday.
Ukraine said Tuesday that it was confident that the US and other NATO countries would not make a decision “on the fate” of the country “behind our backs” during the meetings.