The United States, NATO allies and Russia are all “committed to dialogue” ahead of Wednesday’s high-stakes meeting to discuss Russia’s military buildup along the Ukrainian border, US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said Tuesday.
“I think right now, folks feel that both the allies and the Russians, including the United States, all are committed to dialogue at this juncture,” she told CNN’s Alex Marquardt in an exclusive interview from NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“All of the allies are committed to engaging in a dialogue with Russia tomorrow. But simultaneously, 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,” she said.
Wednesday’s meeting is the second of three key engagements with Russia meant to defuse the growing threat posed by Russia to neighboring Ukraine as Moscow amasses thousands of troops along the border. On Monday, the representatives and Russia sat down in Geneva for more than seven hours of discussions.
In the wake of Monday’s talks, Russia has continued to demand guarantees that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.
Smith told CNN that “frankly, I don’t see a lot of compromise” on the issue of NATO’s approach to enlargement.
“At this point, let me be very, very clear – no one is suggesting that we alter NATO policy on enlargement,” Smith said. “The door remains 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.”
But she said that there will be other issues on the table to discuss with Russia, including an ongoing conversation about placing “some reciprocal limits” on military exercises and missiles.
Russia has been amassing as many as 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, and Smith told CNN on Tuesday that the US has not “seen any clear signs of de-escalation” from Russia amid the talks.
“Russia is still maintaining about 100,000 forces right on the border with Ukraine. We believe they have plans to bring more forces forward,” she said.
Smith reiterated that the Russians’ excuse that they are amassing troops for exercises, “doesn’t really hold water at this point.”
“They claim they’re exercising. That seems like an awful lot of forces to have on the border for an exercise and there was no notification of any sort of exercise either. So we’re not exactly clear why they’re massing forces on the border,” Smith said.
Monday’s talks between the US and Russia in Geneva, Switzerland, were “frank and forthright,” US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters. But she said she does not know yet whether Russia is prepared to de-escalate the situation on Ukraine’s border.