The meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has produced a potential agreement to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine, according to officials in Paris. The Financial Times reports that Putin has “moved towards de-escalating the Ukraine crisis by promising not to undertake any new ‘military initiatives’ and agreeing to withdraw thousands of Russian troops from Belarus after the completion of planned exercises.”
While Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov clarified that any deal would “require agreement from France’s EU and NATO allies, first and foremost the US,” Putin said the Paris proposal could serve as a basis for a settlement to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, adding that he “will do everything to find compromises that suit everyone.” Putin and Macron plan to speak again after the French leader meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
A second bilateral meeting between world leaders occurred in Washington, where US President Joe Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Sholtz. Biden continues to take an aggressive posture, threatening to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
While Scholtz said Berlin is in agreement with the US on the steps it would take if Russia invaded Ukraine, the chancellor refrained from mentioning the Nord Stream 2 project and cited the need for ambiguity on sanctions, arguing “we do not spell out everything in public.”
Like other European powers, Ukraine is unwilling to adopt America’s aggressive rhetoric or pessimistic outlook, even as the supposed victim of the looming ‘Russian aggression.’ Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to President Zelensky, said “An honest assessment of the situation suggests that the chance of finding a diplomatic solution for de-escalation is still substantially higher than the threat of further escalation.”
One pitfall for any potential agreement would be a major US military escalation in Ukraine. Russia is warning of that possibility, with its TASS news outlet reporting that Kyiv has called on the US to “deploy several battalions of THAAD mobile anti-ballistic missile defense launchers with radars” within its borders.
Since 2007, Putin has warned US missile defense systems in Eastern Europe cross Russia’s ‘red lines’ and pose an existential threat to his country, while Peskov said any such deployment in Ukraine would mark “another step towards destabilization.”
Will Porter contributed to this article.
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