How’s the weather on your end?
Newly released images from a sitdown Monday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, show the two men sitting at opposite ends of a long, oval table in an ornately decorated room in the Kremlin.
Macron traveled to Moscow in an effort to keep hope alive for a negotiated solution to the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was due to meet President Biden in Washington later in the day.
“Dialogue is necessary because that’s the only thing that will help, in my views, to build a context of a security and stability on the European continent,” Macron said after the meeting, in which he urged de-escalation.
“I’m happy to have this opportunity to have a deep discussion on all these issues … and to start building an effective response,” added the French president, who was scheduled to travel to Ukraine on Tuesday.
Putin thanked Macron for the visit, saying: “I see how much efforts the current leadership of France and the president personally is applying in order to solve the crisis related to providing equal security in Europe for a serious historical perspective.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the visit between the two leaders “very important,” before adding that “the situation is too complex to expect a decisive breakthrough after just one meeting.”
Peskov insisted the US and its allies continue to ignore Putin’s security demands and the “atmosphere has remained tense.”
Putin wants to ensure Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites are barred from ever becoming NATO members, that Western forces withdraw from Eastern Europe and the US pledge not to install missile systems or troops in Ukraine.
The diplomatic focus now switches to Washington and Scholz’s first trip to the White House.
The chancellor and Biden were expected to discuss the economic sanctions that will be slapped on Moscow if Putin launches an invasion and the consequences for Nord Stream 2, the natural gas pipeline that runs between Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea.
At the State Department Monday, European Union representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell estimated that 140,000 Russian troops are massed along the border with Ukraine, one day after White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that an invasion “could happen at any time,” causing massive casualties and setting off a refugee crisis in Europe.
“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” Sullivan vowed. “And Russia understands that. We are coordinated with our allies on that, and that will be the reality if Russia chooses to move forward.”
A senior administration official said Sunday said the White House is “confident” that Berlin shares their concerns about Russia’s military buildup and the need for deterrence.
“We have made our position very clear, as I laid out,” they said. “And what I can say is that we will continue to work very closely with Germany to ensure the pipeline does not move forward.”
With Post wires