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Nato, Russia still at loggerheads after meeting

media NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Reuters/路透社

Senior NATO and Russian officials have failed to make a breakthrough in talks on saving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, raising the spectre of a renewed arms race in Europe.

Western capitals allege that Russia's latest generation of medium-range missiles breach the terms of the Cold War era INF treaty and put European cities at risk.

The United States has warned that it will begin a six-month withdrawal process from the treaty on 2 February, unless Russia withdraws the 9M729 ground-based missile system.

NATO ambassadors held talks with a Russian delegation led by deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov at alliance HQ in Brussels, but the meeting ended without breakthrough.

"There was no real progress in the meeting today because Russia did not indicate any willingness to change their position," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said.

He accused the Kremlin of "hollowing out" the INF treaty.

Russia relations at decade low

Western analysts agree that there is a lot of work to be done.

“The relations, generally, are very bad,” says Peter Havlik, a Russia specialist with the Vienna Institute. “Not only Russian relations with Nato but also the EU and the US are at their worst in ten years."

During the Cold War, Nato formed a counter force against the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact. The accord ceased to exist after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but contrary to Russia’s expectation at the time, Nato expanded with some important former Warsaw-pact members, including Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States switching sides, pushing Nato to the borders of Russia itself.

“A dialogue has to be started,” insists Havlik. “Recently there have been very few talks.

US offers talks

On Thursday, the US offered to hold arms control talks with Russia during a United Nations meeting that is scheduled to take place in Beijing next week.

“If this really takes place I think that this would be the first step to the right direction. Otherwise I think that the Nato enlargement to the Russian border and the expansion of Nato into Balkan countries is counterproductive,” says Havlik, who fears that it risks further escalating things and causing "a difficult situation in Europe.”

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