This year’s second meeting of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) has begun in Brussels. The meeting is being held at the ambassadorial level, Russia is represented by Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko.
A diplomatic source in Brussels earlier said that efforts to prevent incidents and ensure the transparency of military activity in Europe that has considerably intensified recently will top the agenda of the meeting. The issue at hand will be mutual buzzing of warplanes over the Baltic Sea region. The upcoming military exercises and the two sides’ efforts to beef up military presence near common borders will be discussed too.
According to the source, the parties will also discuss the situation in Ukraine. However, the delegates have little hope to achieve mutual understanding on the issue and are determined to reiterate their stances without any particular hopes for the rapprochement. In addition to that, the participants in the meeting will raise the issue of Afghanistan where the alliance plans to again step up its military presence as of next year due to the gradual intensification of Islamist activities, both of the Taliban movement and the units linked to the Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia).
Grushko earlier noted that systemic dialogue between the militaries of Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance is required to reduce the risk of military incidents over the Baltic Sea region. However, according to the Russian envoy, Moscow sees “no signs of NATO’s readiness for joint work in this direction despite specific proposals from the Russian Defense Ministry.”
“The intensification of the military activity in Europe, both on the part of Russia and the allied countries (the NATO member-countries) will lead to an increased risk of non-routine situations emerging due to the lack of understanding of each other’s actions. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain regular dialogue and open communication channels between the militaries to have an opportunity to prevent such incidents. If they occur, the parties must prevent them from spiraling out of control,” the source said.
According to the source, to enhance transparency the parties will discuss military drills and exchange information on deploying new units close to the border. “The alliance in particular is going to brief Russia on the deployment of four multinational battalion groups to the Baltic countries and Poland,” he noted.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier said that the North Atlantic Alliance asked Russia to hold a briefing on the Zapad (West)-2017 exercises scheduled for autumn. According to Stoltenberg, the issue was raised at the last meeting of the NATO defense ministers on June 29. The last NRC meeting was held in Brussels on March 30.