Sun. May 19th, 2024
  • In meeting with Putin, with Ukraine issue looming large, French president says he hopes to find answers to security issues for both Europe, Russia
  • Scholz says West will act swiftly, decisively if Russia invades Controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline on agenda
  • Leaders to discuss German leadership of G7
  • UK to bolster NATO’s eastern flank while over 100,000 Russian troops amassed at Ukraine’s border
  • Jens Stoltenberg, Recep Tayyip Erdogan discuss Russian military buildup in, around Ukraine, says NATO chief
  • Germany is in close contact with its partners for diplomatic solution to ongoing conflict, says Foreign Ministry spokesman
Putin says Russia, France share concern about security situation in Europe

Russia and France share concerns about the security situation in Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

Opening a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, with tensions over Ukraine looming large, Putin thanked Macron for his “active” attitude towards what he called the problems of European security.

“I understand that we have a common concern about what is happening in the security sphere in Europe,” said Putin.

He added, “I want to thank you for the fact that France has always been very actively involved in the development of fundamental decisions in this area,” meaning the security sphere in Europe.

The Russian leader then praised Macron’s efforts to resolve the Ukrainian issue and provide “equal security” in Europe.

“I see how much effort the current leadership of France and the president of France personally are making to resolve the crisis related to ensuring equal security in Europe for a serious historical perspective and to address issues that are closely related to the first part – with the resolution of the internal Ukrainian crisis in the southeast of the country,” he said, referring to the conflict-torn Donbas region.

Hoping to ‘avoid war’

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron

Macron said dialogue with Russia is “the principal way of achieving stability and security in Europe.”

“We have laid the foundation for a full and open dialogue in 2019. I think that the dialogue is more relevant now than ever. This dialogue is necessary – only it will ensure security and stability on the European continent,” he said.

Macron added that in his meeting with Putin he hopes to find answers to security issues for both Europe and Russia.

“I am glad that I will be able to discuss all the issues in detail, and we will be able to start searching for a collective answer that is useful for Russia and the whole of Europe. Such a response will help to avoid war and build stability, transparency, and trust for everyone,” he said.

Moscow and Kyiv have been locked in conflict since hostilities in the eastern Donbas region broke out in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Russia has now amassed thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears it could be planning another military offensive against the former Soviet republic.

The US and its allies have warned of an imminent attack, and threatened Russia with “severe consequences.”

Moscow, however, has denied it is preparing to invade Ukraine and said its troops are there for exercises.

Biden, Germany’s Scholz to stress unity against Russia on Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz walks in the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo

The West will act swiftly, decisively and in unity if Russia invades Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday before meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, amid U.S. warnings that Moscow could push forward in days or weeks.

Scholz, under fire at home and abroad for what is seen as insufficient leadership in the crisis, told reporters in Washington that Russia would pay a very high price if it invaded Ukraine, as his defense minister announced plans to send up to 350 more troops to Lithuania. 

“The point is to act quickly, swiftly and decisively, and above all, in a unified manner,” Scholz said. “There will be a very high price to pay if Ukraine is attacked militarily.”

Russia has moved more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, but denies it is planning an invasion. U.S. officials say an attack could occur within days or weeks.

The German leader, whose popularity has plunged 17 percentage points in recent weeks as tensions ratcheted up with Moscow, is due to visit both Ukraine and Russia next week, after meetings this week with Biden, European Union officials and the heads of Baltic states.

Scholz said Germany was working closely with the United States and its allies to finalize their sanctions plans, but said efforts to resolve the dispute diplomatically – including through so-called Normandy format talks with France, Ukraine and Russia – were also starting to resonate.

“It’s about preventing a war in Europe,” Scholz told ARD before his departure, adding that his first meeting as chancellor with Biden would involve “hard, real political work.” The two men met in Rome in October during a summit of leaders from Group of 20 nations while Scholz was still serving as finance minister.

The Biden-Scholz relationship could be pivotal at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron has yet to declare if he will run in an election in three months, and while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is engulfed in a domestic crisis.

U.S. officials played down differences with Germany, which relies on Russia for natural gas, and said Washington had been coordinating closely with Berlin and the EU on a “swift and severe package of sanctions” to be imposed on Russia in the event of an invasion.

They said, as Scholz has too, that Germany was the second largest donor of non-military assistance to Kyiv after the United States, and that Germany’s support in getting U.S. forces to Romania, which shares a border with Ukraine, was critical.

“I’m absolutely confident that Germany shares our concerns over Russian aggression, shares our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a senior U.S. administration official said. The two countries were “in absolute agreement” on the need for additional measures such as sanctions and deployment of further troops to the eastern flank of NATO in the event of an invasion, the official added.

Details of the sanctions package are still being finalized, but banning Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system remains an option, a second senior U.S. official said.

Biden, a longtime opponent of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, will make clear the U.S. position that the pipeline will not move forward if “Russia invades Ukraine in one way or another,” the first official said.

Germany, which uses Russian gas to cover half its needs, has delayed approval of the pipeline until at least the second half of 2022, but has refused to cancel the nearly completed project.

Scholz and Biden will discuss Germany’s agenda for its leadership of the Group of Seven rich nations this year, their support for Western Balkan countries, and working to coordinate bilateral and multilateral responses to China’s non-market economic practices and human rights abuses, U.S. officials said.

Steven Sokol, president of the American Council on Germany, said Scholz needed to clarify Germany’s position on Nord Stream 2 and show more “creativity” in providing assistance to Ukraine, short of sending in weapons.

“Germany has to understand that if it wants to be more of a player on the world stage and carry more responsibility, then with that comes taking more action,” Sokol said. “In order to be a leader, Germany has to do more.”

UK to send 350 troops to Poland amid rising tensions with Russia

British troops dispatched to Eastern Europe

The British government on Monday announced the deployment of 350 additional troops to Poland to bolster NATO’s eastern defenses amid rising tensions with Russia.

At a press conference with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak, Defense Minister Ben Wallace stressed the UK’s support for the Polish government in the face of increasingly aggressive Russian military posturing.

“In that spirit of solidarity and helping share each other’s challenges of resiliences we will add to those 100 Royal Engineers by sending a further 350 British troops to Poland in a bilateral deployment to show that we can work together and send a strong signal that Britain and Poland stand side by side,” he said.

Blaszczak expressed gratitude for the reinforcements, saying they will “cooperate with the Polish armed forces on increasing the security especially against the threat on the border.”

The 100 troops already in Poland were deployed there to aid in the migrant crisis of recent years.

The UK has joined efforts at resolving the growing Ukraine crisis, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting there and holding a press conference with President Volodymyr Zelensky two weeks ago and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss poised to visit the capital Kyiv in the coming days.

Officials in NATO have reassured Moscow that it has no intention of expanding further east and have called on President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his forces from Eastern Ukraine to prevent Europe from sliding back into conflict.

“Russia has expressed concerns about potential NATO aggression, but we have been clear that those concerns are fundamentally unfounded as NATO is a defensive alliance at its heart,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“But we do want to work with Russia to provide diplomatic reassurance on that front. It is not about making concessions as the PM and other Western leaders have said all European democracies have a right to join NATO,” he added.

Moscow has amassed over 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. It has also deployed forces in Crimea in the south and Belarus in the north.

Putin has called such maneuvers military exercises and denied claims of a Russian invasion but has warned NATO against further expansion in what it sees as its region of influence.

NATO chief thanks Turkish president for ‘active support’ amid Russia-Ukraine row

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday thanked the Turkish president for his “active support” and “personal engagement to find political solution” to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine tensions.

In a Twitter post, Stoltenberg said that he spoke with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed Russia’s military buildup in and around Ukraine.

“I thanked him for his active support & personal engagement to find a political solution, and welcomed #Turkey’s strong practical support to #Ukraine,” he said.

“#NATO remains ready for dialogue,” he added.

Russian forces in 2014 invaded the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Moscow is now said to have amassed thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears that it could be planning another military offensive.

The US and its allies have warned of an imminent attack and threatened Russia with “severe consequences” if it further invades Ukraine.

But Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade Ukraine and said its troops are there for exercises.

Last week, Erdogan said that Turkiye is ready to host a summit of Russian and Ukrainian leaders to defuse the ongoing tensions.

Speaking to reporters on his way home from Ukraine, Erdogan said he is ready to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

Germany welcomes Turkey’s mediation efforts between Ukraine, Russia

Germany on Monday welcomed Turkiye’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Germany has been in close contact with its European and NATO partners on the latest developments.

“We certainly welcome every effort (by our partners) to resolve the current conflict,” he said, responding to a question about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to facilitate talks between Ukraine and Russia.

“Turkiye is a NATO partner, and we are also in coordination with our partners within NATO,” Burger added.

Following his visit to Kyiv on Thursday, President Erdogan said that he offered to host a summit of Russian and Ukrainian leaders in Turkiye, in order to de-escalate tensions and find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

Russia recently amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Moscow has denied it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises.

Kremlin also issued a list of security demands from the West, including a rolling back of troop deployment to some ex-Soviet states, and guarantees that Ukraine and Georgia will not join NATO.

Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that allies are ready to meet with Russia to address issues raised by Moscow, but also underlined that NATO “will not compromise on the fundamental principles on which Euro-Atlantic security rests.”

Credits | Anadolu Agency/Reuters

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