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‘Sliver of Hope’: Kremlin Sees A ‘Diplomatic Path’ to Resolution With Ukraine

‘Sliver of Hope’: Kremlin Sees A ‘Diplomatic Path’ to Resolution With Ukraine

The Kremlin signaled on Monday that it is still willing to keep talking with the West about security grievances that led to the current Ukraine crisis, offering hope that Russia might not invade its beleaguered neighbor within days as the U.S. and European allies increasingly fear. But questions remain about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions as countries are evacuating diplomats while remaining on alert for possible imminent war amid the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.

Moscow, which denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, wants Western guarantees that NATO won’t allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members. It also wants the alliance to halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe, demands flatly rejected by the West. On a last-ditch diplomatic trip, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said there are “no sensible reasons” for the buildup of more than 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders to the north, south, and east, and he urged more dialogue.

 

Despite warnings from Washington, London, and elsewhere that Russian troops could move on Ukraine as soon as Wednesday, Monday’s meeting between Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested otherwise. At the session with Putin, Lavrov argued that Moscow should hold more talks with the U.S. and its allies despite their refusal to consider Russia’s main security demands.

Britain’s prime minister said Europe is “on the edge of a precipice” — but added, “there is still time for President Putin to step back.” France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told French television that “all elements” were in place for Russian forces to conduct a “strong offensive,” but “nothing shows today” that Putin has decided to launch one.

In a phone call on Sunday, President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to keep pushing both deterrence and diplomacy. Zelenskyy’s office also quoted him suggesting a quick Biden visit would help — a possibility that was not mentioned in the White House summary of the call. Such a visit would be unlikely as the U.S. is now operating with a skeleton diplomatic staff in the capital, Kyiv.

President Biden spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, according to a Downing Street statement. The two world leaders “agreed there remained a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine.”

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