BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia is set to outline its demands for security guarantees in Europe to 30 NATO allies on Wednesday, following intense talks with the United States in Geneva which have shown that the two sides have major differences to fill.

The NATO-Russia Council at Allied Headquarters in Brussels is part of a larger effort to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War, sparked primarily by a confrontation over Ukraine, which the United States says Russia plans to invade.

Moscow rejects such claims, although it is assembling troops near the Ukrainian border.

NATO diplomats say the Western alliance is ready to negotiate with Moscow on greater openness around military exercises and to avoid accidental clashes that could spark conflict, as well as arms control over missiles in Europe.

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But NATO allies say many of Russia’s demands, spelled out in two draft treaties in December, are unacceptable, including calls to reduce alliance activities to 1990s levels and the pledge to do not welcome new members.

“Let us be clear: Russian actions precipitated this crisis. We pledge to use diplomacy to defuse the situation,” said US envoy to NATO Julianne Smith on Tuesday evening.

“We want to see (…) Russia withdraw its forces,” she said of the 100,000 soldiers stationed near Ukraine.

By curbing NATO’s eastward expansion into its former Soviet sphere of influence, the Kremlin views the deterrence and military modernization of the US-led alliance as a threat.

Russia held live fire exercises with troops and tanks near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday, while casting a negative note on the prospects for further negotiations with the United States.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will chair Wednesday’s talks from 09:00 GMT with the alliance’s 30 ambassadors and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Allies should voice their concerns about what they call covert and cyber attacks, as well as election interference, against the European Union and the United States.

Russia denies any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by John Stonestreet)

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