Biden swears off Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine – News-Herald
By SYLVIE CORBET, AAMER MADHANI and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW — In a flurry of diplomacy across two continents, President Joe Biden emerged from a meeting with Germany’s new leader on Monday vowing that the crucial Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany gas pipeline would be blocked if Russia invades Ukraine further. Russian Vladimir Putin said the United States and its allies were the only ones talking about an invasion.
Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron met for hours in Moscow at the same time Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at the White House to try to defuse the crisis before armed conflict erupted. Russia has massed thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, adding military power almost daily.
The White House has expressed growing concern about the prospects for war, and Biden has sought to bolster European allies’ support for economic sanctions against Russia if it goes further with an invasion.
“We are jointly ready and all of NATO is ready,” Biden said, referring to the powerful Western alliance, although Ukraine is not a member.
While Biden reiterated with certainty that the pipeline would not move forward, Scholz stressed the need to keep some ambiguity on sanctions in order to pressure Russia to defuse the crisis.
“It is necessary for Russia to understand that much more could happen than it may have calculated with itself.” Scholz said.
The buildup of more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fueled Western concerns about a possible offensive. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned on Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day”, sparking a conflict that would have “enormous human cost”.
Putin described his lengthy talks with Macron in the Kremlin as professional. He noted that the United States and its NATO allies ignored Moscow’s demands for security guarantees.
He said NATO’s eastward expansion to the Russian border violated the security principles of international agreements and flouted Western assurances that it is a defensive alliance that does not threaten Russia.
“The people of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have learned this from their own experience,” the Russian leader said in a sarcastic reference to the involvement of US allies in military campaigns in those countries. He also referred to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in the former Yugoslavia.
He derided Western criticism of Russian military build-up near Ukraine, saying that “NATO members consider it possible to lecture us about our troop movements on our own territory and present them as a threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine”.
Russia has denied plans to attack its neighbor, but demands that the United States and its allies ban Ukraine and other former Soviet countries from joining NATO, halt weapons deployments there and withdraw NATO forces from Eastern Europe. Washington and NATO reject these demands.
Undaunted, Biden said Monday “it would be wise” for Americans other than key diplomats to leave Ukraine amid the Russian military threat.
On a positive note, Putin said without giving further details that some of Macron’s proposals could serve as the basis for a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, adding that they had agreed to have a call after the Macron’s visit to Kiev on Tuesday.
Similarly, Biden said when asked if there remains an “exit ramp” for stalled Russia: “The answer is yes.”
Macron said after his “substantial and in-depth” meeting with Putin: “The next few days will be crucial and in-depth discussions together will be necessary… to build new guarantees of peace and security” for the European continent.
Macron and Poutine spent several hours meeting over a meal that included fish soup, the choice of sturgeon or reindeer with sweet potatoes and pear pie with vanilla ice cream.
Macron, who travels to Ukraine on Tuesday, spoke by phone Sunday with Biden. Before Putin’s meeting, Macron said: “I don’t believe in spontaneous miracles.”
“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be compromised, while it is also legitimate for Russia to raise the question of its own security,” Macron told the Journal. of Sunday.
The State Department has been warning US citizens to reconsider any plans to travel to Ukraine since last year due to the buildup of Russian forces near the border. In January, he updated that advice, urging US citizens not to travel to Ukraine or leave the country if they are already there. The heightened warning came as the department ordered the families of all US staff at the US embassy in Kyiv to leave and allowed non-essential diplomats to leave.
Before meeting Biden, Scholz told German media that “there will be a very high price if Ukraine is attacked militarily. And we have been preparing for it very precisely and talking about the details for a long time. Scholz will travel to Kyiv and Moscow on February 14-15.
Separately, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said her country would add up to 350 troops within days to about 500 who are already part of a NATO battlegroup in Lithuania. “With this, we are strengthening our contribution to the forces on NATO’s eastern flank and sending a very clear signal of unity to our allies,” she said.
Biden has already deployed additional US troops to Poland, Romania and Germany, and a few dozen elite US troops and equipment landed in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, with hundreds more infantry from the 82nd Airborne Division expected to arrive.
Britain said it was sending 350 troops to Poland to bolster NATO forces, joining the 100 Royal Engineers already there.
At a press conference in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the US and Europe were defending Western warnings of more more serious claims that a Russian invasion might be imminent.
“It’s not alarmism. It’s just the facts,” Blinken said.
Borrell noted that “140,000 soldiers massed on the border must not go to tea”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was planning a more permanent military presence in southeastern Europe in response to Russia’s “massive military deployment” near Ukraine.
“We are looking at longer-term adjustments to our posture, our presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said after talks in Brussels with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “If Russia really wants less NATO near the borders, it gets the opposite.”
Stoltenberg gave no details and said no final decision has been made, but the decision may reflect NATO’s long-term military presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where about 5,000 soldiers are stationed. He would see a similar force based in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
This would mean that NATO troops would be stationed long-term near Ukraine’s western border and in the Black Sea region. The objective would only be to strengthen the defenses of NATO allies in the region and troops would not cross into Ukraine if Russia invaded.
In 2015, France and Germany helped broker a peace deal for eastern Ukraine in an effort to end the conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists that erupted the year precedent following the annexation by Russia of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller in Washington, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv, Ukraine, Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Jill Lawless in London contributed.