Moscow: International efforts to defuse the stand-off over Ukraine intensified Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron is set to hold talks here and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington to coordinate policies as fears of a Russian invasion mount. The concentration of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fuelled Western worries that it heralds a possible offensive.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine ‘any day’. It would trigger a conflict that would come at an ‘enormous human cost’., he added.
Russia has denied any plans to attack its neighbour, but is urging the US and its allies to bar Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations from joining NATO, halt weapons deployments there and roll back NATO forces from Eastern Europe. Washington and NATO have rejected the demands.
Macron is set to meet in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin before visiting Ukraine Tuesday. He had said last week that his priority is ‘dialogue with Russia and de-escalation’. Before heading to Moscow, Macron had a call Sunday with US President Joe Biden.
They discussed ‘ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders’. The French presidency said Macron sought to ensure ‘good coordination’ with Biden in the call.
“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be a subject for compromise, while it is also legitimate for Russia to pose the question of its own security,” Macron said in an interview with French newspaper ‘Journal du Dimanche’ published Sunday. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described Macron’s visit as ‘very important’, but sought to temper expectations, telling reporters that ‘the situation is too complex to expect a decisive breakthrough after just one meeting’.
Continuing the high-level diplomacy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to meet Monday with Biden in Washington for talks also expected to focus on the Ukrainian standoff. Scholz is set to travel to Kyiv and Moscow February 14-15.
National Security Adviser Sullivan, who spoke in a round of appearances Sunday talk shows reiterated that the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany ‘will not move forward’ if Russia attacks Ukraine.
Biden and Scholz are expected to address the pipeline during their White House talk, which will mark their first face-to-face since Scholz became the head of the German government nearly two months ago.