NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he is willing to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, potentially paving the way for the first high-level talks between the world’s most powerful military alliance and Moscow in several years.
“If the context is right, I am, of course, also ready to meet with President Putin,” Stoltenberg told DPA news agency in an interview published Monday, stressing that dialogue is important “especially when things are difficult.”
Stoltenberg’s offer for talks comes as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, founded in 1949, is struggling to reconcile conflicts between its 29 members on issues ranging from military action in Syria to defense spending to how to deal with Russia.
It follows calls by French President Emmanuel Macron for the West to rethink its relationships with the Kremlin, which have been strained since Moscow invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
“Russia is our biggest neighbor, Russia is here to stay, and we need to strive for a better relationship with Russia,” NATO’s Stoltenberg told DPA. “But even without an improved relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship with Russia.”
The idea of a softer stance on Moscow has alarmed some NATO members, particularly those who spent decades in the Soviet sphere of influence.