Diplomatic pressure from Macron and Scholz comes when the United States accuses the Kremlin of plotting a “fake flag attack” to justify military action.
The French president and German chancellor will head to Moscow and Kiev in the coming weeks, complementing diplomatic efforts to try to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine and finding a way out of growing tensions.
France’s Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit Moscow on Monday and Kiev on Tuesday, while Germany’s Olaf Scholz will visit Kiev on February 14 and Moscow on February 15.
The high-level visits came as China backed Russia’s demand to block NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and after the United States accused the Kremlin on Thursday of plotting to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext for military action. .
The United States did not provide detailed information in support of the allegations, which Moscow categorically denied.
While France is a major player in NATO and moving troops to Romania as part of the alliance’s preparations for possible Russian action, Macron has also been actively pushing for dialogue with Putin and has spoken to him several times in recent weeks. The two will hold a face-to-face meeting on Monday, Macron’s office said on Friday.
Macron follows the French tradition of following a separate path from the United States in geopolitics, as well as trying to leave its mark on this crisis and defend Europe’s interests.
Germany stressed the importance of various diplomatic formats to deal with tensions and refused to send weapons to Ukraine, much to the chagrin of allies. Scholz has also faced criticism at home recently for maintaining a low public profile during the crisis.
After weeks of diverse dialogue efforts that have not led to significant concessions from Russia and the United States, it is unclear what effect travel will have.
But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday that “high-level visits seriously reduce security challenges and disrupt the Kremlin’s plans.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken held talks with Kuleba on Friday to discuss the build-up of the Russian military and steps “to encourage Russia to pursue diplomacy over the war and ensure security and stability.”
Blinken reaffirmed the readiness of the United States and its allies to “impose swift and severe consequences on Russia if it decides to escalate,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Ready for more calls”
In a conversation Wednesday with US President Joe Biden, Macron described his diplomatic efforts. In talks with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Thursday night, Macron’s office said it had discussed ways to “identify elements that could lead to de-escalation” and “conditions for a strategic balance in Europe that should reduce land risks” and ensures the security of the continent. “
Scholz has a pre-scheduled meeting with Biden in Washington, DC, on Monday.
Moscow has signaled a clear readiness for more talks with Washington and NATO in recent days. Some experts say that as long as Russia and the West continue to talk, there is cause for cautious optimism.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, raising fears that Moscow may invade again, as it did in 2014.
The presence of troops and insecurity have alarmed Ukrainians and damaged the country’s economy.
The Kremlin has said an invasion was planned and demanded assurances from the West that Ukraine would never join NATO, that the bloc’s weapons near Russia’s borders would be halted, and alliance forces would withdraw from Eastern Europe.