US President Joe Biden sought to maintain pressure on Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine on Friday, announcing the deployment of a small soldier to Eastern Europe even as the highest-ranking US officials. The Pentagon supports a new diplomatic endeavor.
When President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western leaders to avoid causing “panic” over Russia’s massive military buildup on his country’s borders, Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on the need necessary to de-escalate.
Neither Putin nor his European and American counterparts have shown a willingness to act so far in the weeks-long crisis, the worst crisis in decades between Russia and the West.
But according to a Macron aide, Putin told the French leader in a phone call that lasted more than an hour that he had “no plans to attack”.
In Washington, however, Biden said he would soon send a small number of US troops to bolster NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe as tensions persist.
The United States already has tens of thousands of troops stationed in most of Western Europe.
At the Pentagon, top officials called for a focus on diplomacy while saying that Russia now has enough troops and equipment to threaten all of Ukraine.
Any such conflict, warned the top US general, Coalition Chairman Mark Milley, would be “terrifying” for both sides.
“If that happens to Ukraine, it will be very important, very significant, and it will result in a significant amount of casualties,” Milley said.
But speaking with Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said war was still avoidable.
“Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy,” Austin said.
“Putin can also do the right thing,” Austin said. “There’s no reason why this situation should turn into conflict.”
During his talks with Macron, Putin “expressed no plans to offend and said he wanted to continue negotiations with France and our allies,” an aide to the French president said.
Their conversation “allowed us to agree on the need for de-escalation,” the aide told journalists. Putin “has made it very clear that he does not want confrontation.”
Since October, Russia has accumulated more than 100,000 troops and combat equipment, as well as support forces, along the border with Ukraine and more recently in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north.
Western officials say Russia has also concentrated more air and sea assets in the region, creating a complex threat not seen since the Cold War.
Moscow has demanded extensive security guarantees, including that Ukraine was never allowed to join NATO.
Those demands have been the subject of acrimonious negotiations, with the West warning of far-reaching consequences if diplomacy fails and Russia attacks.
“We don’t need this panic,” Zelensky told a news conference with foreign media, stressing that he wanted to avoid hurting his country’s already battered economy.
“There are even signals from the respected leaders of the states, they just say there will be war tomorrow. This is panic – how much will it cost our state?” he asks.
This weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak to Mr Putin and add to the chorus of Western leaders urging him to withdraw.
Johnson “will reiterate the need for Russia to step back and engage diplomatically,” a Downing Street spokesman said, without specifying when this would happen.
Russia’s concerns are not addressed
As for Macron, Putin made it clear that written responses from the West to his demands this week have fallen short of Russia’s expectations, the Kremlin said.
“The responses of the US and NATO do not take into account Russia’s fundamental concerns, including preventing NATO expansion,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin statement on the call.
He added that the West had ignored the “main question” that no country should enhance its security at the expense of another, adding that Russia would “carefully study” the responses, “The country will then decide on the next course of action.”
Russia also demanded the withdrawal of NATO forces deployed to Eastern European countries and former Soviet Union countries that joined the alliance after the Cold War.
In a sign of continued tensions, Russia announced Friday evening it had added several EU officials to its list of people barred from entering the country, saying it was responsible for its “policies”. against Russia”.
Threats to the main pipeline
The call between Putin and Macron follows talks in Paris this week between Russia and Ukraine, which, along with France and Germany, issued a joint statement pledging to maintain a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine between the forces. government and pro-Moscow separatists.
They also agreed to hold new talks in Berlin in February.
The Kremlin said: “Taking into account the outcome of the meeting” in Paris, “the mood looks forward to continuing Russian and French work in this format.”
In parallel with foreign policy, the West has stepped up its threat of a tough response to an invasion.
Washington and Berlin have warned that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, designed to double Russia’s natural gas supplies to Germany, is under threat.
Milley said that it was Russia that would be hurt by war.
“If Russia chooses to invade Ukraine, it will be inexpensive, in terms of casualties or other significant effects,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)