Biden and Putin agree to summit on Ukraine in de-escalation deal brokered by France

White House says meeting with Russia will happen ‘if an invasion hasn’t happened’ of Ukraine

Eric Garcia
Monday 21 February 2022 05:41 GMT
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File: US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet during the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange on 16 June 2021 in Geneva
File: US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet during the US-Russia summit at Villa La Grange on 16 June 2021 in Geneva (Getty Images)
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US president Joe Biden agreed to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the condition that a Russian invasion of Ukraine hasn’t happened, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The statement came after Mr Biden spoke with French president Emanuel Macron as Russia amassed 150,000 troops, along with military equipment, which the White House described as being about “ongoing diplomacy and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s military buildup on the borders of Ukraine”.

Mr Macron had previously spoken with both Mr Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“As the President has repeatedly made clear, we are committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins,” Ms Psaki said.

Ms Psaki said that secretary of state Antony Blinken will meet with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov later this week in Europe. Mr Blinken had told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he believed Russia was “moving forward” with plans to invade Ukraine.

“We’ve seen that with provocations created by the Russians or separatist forces over the weekend, false flag operations, now the news just this morning that the ‘exercises’ Russia was engaged in in Belarus with 30,000 Russian forces that was supposed to end this weekend will now continue because of tensions in eastern Ukraine, tensions created by Russia and the separatist forces it backs there,” he said.

Mr Biden had initially planned to go to his home in Wilmington, Delaware for the rest of President’s Day Weekend, but canceled as tensions continued to mount.

“President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement, again, if an invasion hasn’t happened,” she said.

“We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war,” Ms Psaki said. “And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.”

Mr Biden has said he is “convinced” that Russia will invade Ukraine, which vice president Kamala Harris repeated.

“As the president has said, we believe that Putin has made his decision. Period,” she told reporters. Ms Harris went to the Munich Security Conference to outline that the United States would exact tough penalties from Russia if it were to invade Ukraine.

“We will impose far-reaching financial sanctions and export controls. We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries, and we will target those who are complicit and those who aid and abet this unprovoked invasion,” she said.

Mr Zelensky assailed Western allies for not sufficiently defending Ukraine, asserting that the global community had forgotten the lessons of the 20th century.

“It was here 15 years ago that Russia announced its intention to challenge global security,” he said at the Munich Security Conference. What did the world say? Appeasement. Result? At least – the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my state.”

Ms Harris had discussed with reporters what she discussed with Mr Zelenskyy.

“Well, what I made clear in our meeting and -- is that -- again, this is a dynamic situation,” she said. “And depending on what happens in the coming days, we will reevaluate the need that Ukraine has and our ability to support. And we have been doing that through the course of these many months.”

Mr Zelensky also criticised Nato for not moving quickly enough.

“We are told: the door is open,” he said in Munich. “But so far authorised access only. If not all members of the Alliance want to see us or all members of the Alliance do not want to see us, be honest. Open doors are good, but we need open answers, not open questions for years.”

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