Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a media forum of the All-Russia People's Front in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Dmitry Lovetsky/Pool(reuters_tickers)
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian relations with former Cold War adversary NATO will not improve for as long as the alliance continues a "containment policy" towards Moscow, Russia's NATO envoy was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Alexander Grushko said a breakthrough in diplomatic relations should not be expected this month at a forum that will bring Russian and NATO representatives together for the first time since the Ukraine crisis.
"There cannot be a return to 'business as usual' with NATO as long as the alliance does not reconsider its containment policy towards Russia and does stop bloating the myth of a military threat from Russia," Grushko told local media.
Russia's leadership, including President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly accused the United States and its allies of attempting to maintain their dominance in global affairs through a "policy of containment of Russia", involving political, economic and military pressure.
The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 but was effectively suspended months after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014. Both sides said on Friday they had now agreed to hold talks at ambassador level in Brussels.
Holding further meetings with NATO would depend on Moscow's conclusions once it has analysed the results of the April meeting, Grushko said.
The agenda of the meeting, for which no fixed date has been disclosed, includes the implementation of the ceasefire deal in Ukraine, known as "Minsk-2", NATO's military activity and Afghanistan, Grushko said.
"I don't expect any breakthrough from this meeting," he said. "But we hope for an earnest discussion, including about the root causes of the crisis - not only in Russia-NATO relations, but ... also about the ones that led to the worsening of regional and European security."
NATO has also said that any meeting with Russia would have to address the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014. The West accuses Russia of supporting the rebels, something Moscow denies.
Afghanistan and regional threats are also on the agenda, NATO said on Friday.
As NATO accelerates its biggest military build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War, the alliance wants to talk to Moscow about improved military transparency to avoid misunderstandings.
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Helen Popper)