WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will consult with European leaders on Monday afternoon, as pressure mounts between Russia and NATO over Ukraine.
NATO said on Monday it would move more military equipment and troops to countries on the alliance’s eastern front. Russia has amassed at least 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, threatening that the conflict is necessary to preserve its national security.
“We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment, including by strengthening our collective defense,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. said in a statement.
Biden said last week that the United States would move more troops and equipment to eastern NATO countries if Russia continues to threaten an invasion.
On Sunday, the United States ordered the families of American diplomats to leave Kiev, a move that several European diplomats called premature. The UK announced the same move on Monday, saying it was “in response to the growing threat from Russia”.
Denmark is sending a frigate and deploying F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania; Spain will send warships and could send fighter planes to Bulgaria; and France is ready to send troops to Romania.
Diplomatic talks between the West and Russia slowed as negotiations expanded into a broader debate about the security structure of post-Cold War Europe.
The White House said that Biden will speak Monday afternoon via video call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, NATO’s Stoltenberg, Polish President Andrzej. Duda and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Kremlin criticized NATO’s troop movements, arguing that the West’s mobilization was inciting “hysteria”.
Ireland, a non-NATO country, said Russia has held military exercises off its coast, a move that was not welcomed.
European Union foreign ministers reconvened to show a united front supporting Ukraine in an effort to downplay concerns that Europe would not respond cohesively to Russian aggression.
Asked if the EU evacuate families of diplomats from UkraineEU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “We are not going to do the same.” He said he is eager to hear from Secretary of State Antony Blinken on that decision.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the US decision was “a premature step” and a sign of “excessive caution.” He said that Russia is sowing panic among Ukrainians and foreigners to destabilize Ukraine.
Germany is monitoring developments, but Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed that “we must not contribute to further disturbing the situation; we must continue to support the Ukrainian government very clearly and, above all, maintain the stability of the country.” .
Gas prices play a role in EU unity over Russia
Various political, business and energy interests have long divided the 27 EU countries in their rapprochement with Moscow. About 40% of the EU’s natural gas imports come from Russia, much of it through pipelines in Ukraine.
Gas prices have soared and Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said Russian energy giant Gazprom cut its exports to the EU at the end of 2021 despite high prices. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Gazprom is honoring its contractual obligations, not putting pressure on Europe.
Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which is complete but not yet pumping gas, has become a bargaining chip. French President Macron renewed calls for an EU summit with Putin.
Late last year, France and Germany expressed doubts about US intelligence assessments that Moscow might be preparing to invade.
On Saturday night, the head of the German navy, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schonbach, resigned after saying that Ukraine would not retake the Crimean peninsula and suggested that Putin deserves “respect”.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban plans to meet Putin next week to discuss a Russian-backed project to expand a Hungarian nuclear power plant.
Diplomats and officials said tough sanctions are being worked out with the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission. They were reluctant to say what the measures might be or what action by Russia might trigger them.
The aim, they said, is to try to match the doubts Putin has sown about his intentions for Ukraine with uncertainty about what any retaliatory European action would look like, or when it would come.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.
Contributing: The Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism