Several world leaders lined up Monday to walk the diplomatic tightrope that could mean the difference between war in Ukraine and an unsettled peace there as Russia’s threatening actions on its neighbor’s border continue unabated.
In Washington, USA President Joe Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House to shore up Western resolve against what they see as Russian aggression. Biden has promised to block a controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany if Moscow invades its neighbor.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has arranged his own main meeting with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who has traveled to Russia on a mission to de-escalate tensions. Putin was back in the Kremlin after his diplomatic raid to gain support from China over the weekend during the Winter Olympics.
Western estimates that some 100,000 Russian soldiers have concentrated near Ukraine Concerns are mounting that an offensive could be just days away. At the same time, the nations of the NATO military alliance were also shoring up their borders.
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Biden and Scholz promise unity in Russian-Ukrainian dispute
Biden and Scholz promised a unified and forceful response to any Russian attack on Ukraine, including tough sanctions, and the two leaders dismissed questions about divisions in the alliance. .
“If Russia makes a decision to continue invading Ukraine, we are ready jointly and all of NATO is ready,” Biden said at a news conference following a bilateral meeting between the two leaders. “We agree that it cannot go on as usual if Russia continues to invade.”
Biden and Scholz, the new German leader, met at the White House on Monday for the first time as Russia continues to increase its military presence on the border with Ukraine.
“We cannot remain silent about that,” Scholz said. “We see the number of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine. And that is a serious threat to European security…”
Biden says Nord Stream 2 will ‘end’ if Russia invades Ukraine
Biden said the United States would block Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline built to bring Russian natural gas to Germany, should Moscow invade Ukraine.
The pipeline has been a flashpoint between the two countries, and Washington argues it will give Moscow significant influence over Europe. Asked for comment on Nord Stream 2, Scholz did not commit to ending the project immediately, but he did not contradict Biden’s position.
“There will be no Nord Stream 2 anymore, we will put an end to it,” Biden said when asked about the pipeline. Biden did not outline what steps the United States would take to stop the pipeline.
“I promise you we can do it,” Biden said.
Scholz said that Germany has prepared “necessary sanctions” against Russia that will be “severe” and “far-reaching” if Putin decides to invade Ukraine. Scholz stressed that NATO “will act together” in response to any attack.
Biden also dismissed a question from the German media about whether the United States doubted Berlin’s reliability.
“He has the complete confidence of the United States. Germany is one of our most important allies in the world,” Biden said when asked if Germany’s tacit continuation of Nord Stream 2 undermines confidence in the alliance. Scholz called the alliance a “very strong and unbreakable relationship.”
Macron points to a breakthrough in Moscow and Kiev
Putin and Macron met for hours in Moscow at the same time Biden and Scholz were speaking at the White House.
Putin described his long talks with Macron in the Kremlin as professional. He said the United States and its NATO allies have ignored Moscow’s demands for security guarantees.
Russia sees NATO’s expansion east to Russia’s border as a violation of the security principles of international agreements, and Putin has flouted Western assurances that it is a defensive alliance that does not threaten Russia.
Russia has denied any plans to attack its neighbor, but demands that the United States and its allies prevent Ukraine and other former Soviet nations from joining NATO, stop weapons deployments there and push NATO forces back from Europe. East. Washington and NATO reject those demands.
Macron will also travel to Kiev on Tuesday. His priority is simple: “dialogue with Russia and de-escalation”.
Related:The German Chancellor visits the White House at a crucial moment for European integrity
Macron’s essential challenge is to make sure things don’t get worse on the ground “before building gestures and mechanisms of trust.” In an interview with the French Journal du Dimanche newspaper, Macron said that Putin could make Ukraine just a means to achieve a larger goal.
“Russia’s geopolitical goal today is clearly not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of coexistence with NATO and the EU,” Macron said. Even if Ukraine’s security cannot be a bargaining chip, Macron said, “it is also legitimate for Russia to raise the issue of its own security.”
France and Germany resume joint work on Ukraine
France and Germany have worked together before. Seven years ago, they were instrumental in forging a peace deal for eastern Ukraine in a bid to end clashes between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists that erupted in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. Ukrainian from Crimea.
Ukrainian officials have called the peace deal unworkable and divisive, but it has toned down the fighting.
Germany has been criticized for being slow and lukewarm in its approach to the Ukraine crisis, but on Monday, Europe’s economic giant was moving on different fronts.
Plus:How the Nord Stream 2 pipeline became a bargaining chip in the Russia-Ukraine crisis
As Scholz prepared for her meeting with Biden, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had meetings scheduled in Kiev with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and is scheduled to visit the “line of contact” with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. on Tuesday.
Germany’s show of solidarity comes amid tensions over Berlin’s refusal to send weapons to Ukraine. However, Baerbock said that “we defend, without ifs and buts, the territorial integrity of the country and on the side of the people of Ukraine.”
Baerbock added that “together, we will react with tough and very concrete measures to any new Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Showing that the Franco-German diplomatic effort is far from over, Scholz will meet Macron and his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda on Tuesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis.
That will allow the three leaders to compare notes from Scholz’s trip to Washington and Macron’s trip to Russia and Ukraine.
Plus:US infantry troops arrive in Poland; Officials say Russia is almost ready for invasion
Germany could increase its troops in Eastern Europe
Germany is also considering sending more troops to Lithuania, which could bolster its presence on NATO’s eastern flank. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht raised the possibility ahead of Scholz’s meeting with Biden.
The German leader is scheduled to host the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the three Baltic states specifically feeling the heat from Moscow, on Thursday before traveling to Ukraine and Russia next week. Germany has led a NATO battle group in Lithuania for the past five years.
a few dozen US troops and elite equipment were seen landing in southeastern Poland on Sunday. near the Ukrainian border, following Biden’s orders to deploy 1,700 troops there amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds more infantrymen from the 82nd Airborne Division are still expected to arrive at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport, 56 miles from Poland’s border with Ukraine.
Contributing: Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism