Both sides are NATO members and came close to armed conflict last year but have been trying to lower tensions since.
NATO’s foreign and defence ministers are meeting to lay the groundwork for the military alliance’s first summit with US President Joe Biden, setting aside four tumultuous years with the Donald Trump administration.
On Tuesday, the ministers are discussing a hefty communique being drafted for the June 14 summit in Brussels, which will reaffirm the unity of the 30-nation security alliance – which has been riven by infighting in recent years – and focus on future threats and challenges.
“This is a pivotal moment for our alliance, and our collective security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on the eve of the meetings. “In a more competitive and unpredictable world, we need transatlantic unity.”
Chief among the challenges is dealing with an increasingly aggressive Russia, whose defence minister announced Monday that Russia would establish 20 new military units in its western sector this year to counter what it claims is a growing threat from NATO.
The rise of China and the impact of climate change – two of the Biden administration’s key interests – are also being discussed, along with missile defence, cyber and hybrid warfare, and the use of disinformation.
The most pressing subject for debate is winding up NATO’s operations in Afghanistan.
Biden has pledged to have US troops out of the conflict-ravaged country by September 11, but many are likely to have left by the time the summit takes place.
But significant questions remain over exactly how NATO will continue to fund the Afghan security forces, whether to continue training special forces troops somewhere outside the country, and exactly who might provide security for civilian workers, embassies and Kabul’s airport.