US and Europeans are calling on Russia to de-escalate

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Russian military vehicles on a train platform are en route to a joint military exercise in Belarus. © Uncredited/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP/dpa

In view of the tense situation in the Ukraine conflict, one crisis meeting follows the next. US President Biden and allies from Europe are united in their appeals to Moscow.

Washington/Berlin/Brussels/Moscow – The heads of state and government of the USA and their European allies have called on Russia to take visible steps to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict.

At a video conference on Monday evening, the participants – including US President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) – again expressed their desire for a diplomatic solution and threatened Moscow with serious consequences in the event of further aggression against Ukraine, like the governments in Washington and Berlin announced. Further high-level consultations are scheduled for the next few days. Scholz receives French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin this Tuesday. The Ukraine conflict is also a topic at their meeting.

Fear of Russian invasion

In view of a massive Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, there are fears in the West that Russia could be planning an invasion of the neighboring country – which Moscow denies. It is also considered possible that fears are only being fueled in order to persuade the NATO states to make concessions when demands for new security guarantees are made. For example, Russia’s declared goal is that NATO refrain from further eastward expansion and withdraw its armed forces from eastern alliance states. NATO, the USA as by far the most powerful and militarily most important alliance state and the EU reject these demands as unacceptable.

On Monday evening, Biden, Scholz, Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Polish President Andrzej Duda, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel joined a video conference together to discuss the situation.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said afterwards that the group had “assured their unreserved support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Everyone had agreed that questions of security and stability in Europe had to be solved through negotiations.

Biden: “Very good meeting”

Biden spoke of a “very good meeting” and “complete agreement” with the European heads of state and government. The White House said the panel discussed joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose “massive consequences and heavy economic costs on Russia for such actions, as well as strengthen security on NATO’s eastern flank.”

The US government had recently announced that it had put around 8,500 soldiers in the United States on increased standby in response to the escalating Ukraine crisis. According to the US Department of Defense, no decision has yet been made on moving these troops to Europe.

Meanwhile, several NATO member countries are sending ships and military aircraft east. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg welcomed the deployment of additional Allied forces to the eastern part of the alliance at the video conference on Monday evening, it said in a statement. He had advocated improving the Alliance’s situational awareness capabilities and strengthening collective defense and deterrence given the current situation.

The EU is preparing for all eventualities

The EU Commission announced that the participants in the discussion wanted diplomacy to be successful, but were preparing in any case. Von der Leyen confirmed the EU’s strong support for Ukraine in the switch. It was also about the plan for a new loan package worth 1.2 billion euros and 120 million euros in additional grants. Michel tweeted after the deliberations: “We will remain steadfast and closed.”

Scholz said before the video switch that the conversation was “a good sign of the close cooperation” between the allies in the conflict. “The situation is serious, but not just today, but for many, many days, weeks and months.” That’s why it’s important to act as one. The Ukraine crisis is likely to play a key role in Scholz’s meeting with Macron this Tuesday.

On Wednesday, in turn, representatives of Russia and Ukraine want to meet in Paris for talks. A meeting at the advisory level in the so-called Normandy format should take place together with France and Germany, it was said on Monday from Élysée circles. In terms of content, it should be about negotiating humanitarian measures and setting a date on which Ukraine and separatists will discuss a law on the status of Donbass. It should also be about Ukraine’s considerations for the time after the intended reintegration of the breakaway areas in eastern Ukraine.

Minsk peace plan on hold

France and Germany are mediating in the Normandy format conflict between Ukraine and Russia that has been going on since 2014. However, the peace plan agreed in Minsk in 2015 is on hold. According to UN estimates, more than 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region. Western countries have recently repeatedly expressed concern that the conflict could escalate militarily if Russian troops invaded.

Russia, on the other hand, blames the West for the heightened tensions in the conflict with Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning an attack on Ukraine. He accused the West of an anti-Russian “information campaign” and “hysteria.” Rather, the growing danger of an “attack” comes from the Ukrainian side. dpa

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