Biden, Putin Agree In Principle to Meet amid Heightened Ukraine Russia Tensions

In News

Both Biden and Russia’s Putin have agreed to a summit mediated by French President Macron. The White House underscored in a statement that such a meeting would be untenable if Russia invaded Ukraine, as Western nations fear.

In Summary

•       The Elysee Palace reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden have agreed to meet in principle.

•       Further, the White House has confirmed the February 24 meeting, and Russia has been pushing for a new security framework in Europe for Russia and Western countries.

•       Alar Karis, the Estonian president, accused Russia of “premeditated escalation” in Ukraine; the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government soldiers has intensified significantly.

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman stands by a military vehicle in the Donetsk region town of Avdiivka, on the eastern Ukraine front-line with Russia-backed separatist [COURTESY]

President Emmanuel Macron of France secured an agreement for an ‘in principle’ summit between the United States and Russia leaders.

Presidents Joe Biden of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia have agreed in principle to meet to discuss the Ukraine problem, the office of French President Emmanuel Macron stated, as long as Moscow does not invade Ukraine.

The Elysee Palace said in a statement released early Monday that Macron had pitched both leaders on a summit focused on “security and strategic stability in Europe.”

“Presidents Biden and Putin have both accepted the principle of such a summit,” the statement stated, emphasizing that such a meeting would be impossible if Russia invaded Ukraine, as Western nations fear.

Later in the day, the White House confirmed the planned summit.

The US is “committed to diplomacy until an invasion begins,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated in a statement. “President Biden has agreed in principle to meet with President Putin… assuming no invasion unfolds.”

“We are also prepared to impose swift and severe sanctions if Russia opts fr war instead.” And Russia appears to be continuing its preparations for an imminent full-scale assault on Ukraine,” she continued.

The Kremlin had no immediate reaction, but Vladimir Putin stated following his Sunday phone talk with Macron that diplomatic efforts needed to be stepped up to resolve the problem.

Macron’s office and the White House stated that the “content” of the summit would be thrashed out during a February 24 meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Shihab Rattansi of Al Jazeera’s Washington bureau reported that the summit appeared to be framed as a debate of a new security system for Russia and Western countries in Europe, something Russia has been pushing for.

Macron made the declaration during a series of phone discussions with leaders on both sides of the Atlantic amid heightened tensions over Ukraine, where Russia has massed thousands of troops along the border.

While the prospective summit optimizes the problem, military tensions remain high following Belarus’s announcement that Russia would extend military drills scheduled to expire on Sunday. Satellite photos also revealed new Russian equipment and soldier deployments in farms and forests close to 15 troops (9.3 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

French President Emmanuel Macron talking to media at the end of the second day of an EU Africa Summit on February 17, 2022 in Brussels, Belgium [COURTESY]

Russia is on the brink of mounting an attack.

Blinken stated on Sunday that the extension of the Belarus exercises reinforced his concern that Russia was on the brink of attacking.

“Everything we see indicates that this is a really dangerous situation,” he said.

“Until the tanks begin to roll and the planes begin to fly, we will seize every chance and minute available to see whether diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from proceeding with this.”

Since Thursday, fighting has also increased significantly between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian government forces in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, an explosion was reported in Donetsk’s central district, with rebels telling Russia’s RIA news agency that two civilians were killed in shelling by Ukrainian government forces.

Russia has accused Ukraine of invading its land, and separatist leaders have already called for a mass evacuation of civilians and a declaration of full military mobilization.

US and Ukrainian officials claim the bombings were orchestrated to justify a Russian invasion.

Moscow has stated that it intends to invade the country, but the situation has created uneasiness among Russia’s Eastern European neighbors.

Estonian President Alar Karis stated on Twitter: “We see a planned, premeditated escalation by Russia. No matter the outcome, the message could not be clearer: nothing uttered by the Russian state can, unfortunately, be trusted.”

A former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul cast doubts about the summit’s viability.

“But if Biden and Putin did meet, they should invite [Zelenskyy] to join,” he said on Twitter.

The White House announced Sunday that President Joe Biden would postpone a scheduled trip to Delaware and instead stay in Washington, DC, following a two-hour meeting of his National Security Council.

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