BRUSSELS — (AP) — Several world leaders lined up on Monday to walk a diplomatic tightrope that could mean the difference between war in Ukraine and an uneasy peace there as Russia’s threatening actions on its border neighbor continue unabated.
Here is an overview of what is happening, where and why:
FROM MOSCOW TO WASHINGTON
Russian President Vladimir Putin was back at the Kremlin in Moscow after his diplomatic foray to win support from China this weekend during the Winter Olympics. Putin was hosting the main meeting of the day on Monday as his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron was on a mission to defuse tensions.
President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met at the White House to bolster Western resolve against what they see as Russian aggression against Ukraine. Biden has explicitly named the pipeline project known as Nord Stream 2, which would bring additional Russian gas to Europe, and could be certified by Germany to operate this summer. “There will be no more Nord Stream 2” if Russia invades Ukraine further, Biden said. Scholz did not mention the pipeline, but said Germany and the United States are “absolutely united” in their intention to impose punitive sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said earlier that the US and Europe remain united not only on the nature of the Russian threat to the Ukraine, but also about the consequences Russia would face if it invaded. They also defended the increasingly grim warnings that a Russian invasion could be imminent.
Western estimates that more than 100,000 Russian troops have massed near Ukraine, raising fears that an offensive is days away.
At the same time, the borders of NATO countries close to Russia are also being reinforced. Germany, which is often accused of being too soft on Moscow, and Britain added to that effort on Monday and NATO itself also has plans.
FRANCE AND RUSSIA ARE NOT AGREED, BUT MORE TALKS TO COME
Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron concluded more than five hours of talks registering their disagreements but also stressing the need for further talks.
Putin noted that the United States and NATO ignored Moscow’s demands that NATO keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out, refrain from placing weapons there, and do pull back the forces of the Eastern European alliance. However, he signaled his readiness to continue negotiations.
Putin scoffed at Western descriptions of NATO as a defensive alliance, saying sarcastically that “the people of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have learned this from their own experience.”
He warned that Ukraine’s NATO membership could trigger a war between Russia and the alliance.
“If Ukraine becomes a member of NATO and takes steps to reconquer Crimea, European countries will automatically be drawn into a military conflict with Russia,” Putin said. “You will be drawn into this conflict beyond your control. There will be no winners. »
Macron said he had a “substantial and thorough” discussion with Putin, emphasizing conditions that could help de-escalation.
“We tried to build convergent elements,” he said. “The coming days will be crucial and in-depth discussions together will be necessary.”
He added that it is Europe’s duty to find a solution to try to rebuild good neighborly relations with Russia.
AFTER THE FRENCH MOVE, GERMANY STRENGTHENS
France and Germany have worked in tandem before. Seven years ago, they played a vital role in creating a peace accord for eastern Ukraine aimed at ending fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists that erupted in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Ukrainian officials have called the peace deal unworkable and divisive, but it has stifled fighting.
Germany has been criticized for being slow and timid in its approach to the Ukraine crisis, but on Monday Europe’s economic power was shifting on different fronts. As Chancellor Scholz prepared for his meeting with Biden, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and was due to visit the “line of contact” with pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday. eastern Ukraine.
Germany’s show of solidarity comes amid tensions over Berlin’s refusal to send arms to Ukraine. Still, Baerbock said “we defend – without ifs and buts – the territorial integrity of the country and alongside the Ukrainian people”.
Baerbock added that “together we will respond with tough and very concrete measures to any new Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
To show 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 Ukrainian crisis. This will allow the three leaders to compare notes after Scholz’s meeting with Biden and Macron’s trips to Russia and Ukraine.
MORE TROOPS SUPPORT NATO’S EASTERN FRONT
Britain said it was sending 350 troops to Poland as part of efforts to bolster NATO forces in Eastern Europe amid a Russian military buildup near Ukraine. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the troops would join 100 Royal Engineers already in Poland.
Germany has moved to send more troops to Lithuania, further bolstering its presence on NATO’s eastern flank, in a move that comes amid criticism of Berlin’s refusal to send weapons to Kiev. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said she would add up to 350 soldiers to a NATO battlegroup she leads in the Baltic nation, where she already has some 500 soldiers.
Lambrecht said that with this decision, Germany “sends a very clear signal of unity to our allies. We can be counted on and we show it with this reinforcement of the battle group”.
Scholz will host the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the three Baltic states feeling the heat from Moscow, on Thursday before traveling to Ukraine and Russia next week.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said the alliance planned a more permanent military presence in southeastern Europe.
“We are looking at longer-term adjustments to our posture, our presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg told reporters after talks with the Polish president. “If Russia really wants less NATO near the borders, it gets the opposite.”
HOW WILL EUROPE FIND MORE GAS?
To feel the warmth in winter, Europe is particularly dependent on energy supplies from Russia. The EU also complains that Moscow has not been available with additional gas shipments to Europe when the logic of the market, with its current exorbitant prices, would make it obvious.
More than 40% of Europe’s gas supplies come from Russia. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on the eve of Monday’s EU-US energy meeting in Washington that “Russia has already used energy supplies for political purposes”. Now the 27-nation bloc desperately needs to diversify its gas sources and is finding a helping hand in Washington.
“The United States will do everything possible to help mitigate any disruption to Europe’s energy supply, and indeed we are already doing that,” Blinken said, adding that Washington is in talks with major producers and nations around the world.
Sylvie Corbet and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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