Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and French President Emmanuel Macron

Macron Sees A Path Forward In Ukraine Crisis, But Says It May Take Months

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French President Emmanuel Macron has indicated that — while resolving the standoff over Moscow’s troop buildup near the border with Ukraine could take months — there is room for progress after he held talks with both the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.

“We now have the possibility to make these negotiations move forward” between Russia and Ukraine, Macron said after meeting in Kyiv on February 8 with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, adding that he also sees “concrete, practical solutions” for reducing tensions between Moscow and the West.

Macron did not give any details on the discussions and said that no one should be “naive” about Russia’s “unprecedented” buildup of more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine.

“In adopting this threatening posture, Russia decided to put pressure on the international community,” Macron said a day after holding talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

“We cannot underestimate the moment of tension that we are living through,” he added, before continuing his shuttle diplomacy in Berlin, where he was to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who just returned from Washington.

Tensions over Moscow’s military moves, which Washington and some European nations fear is a prelude to an invasion of Ukraine, have sparked a game of high-stakes global diplomacy.

Moscow insists it has no plans to attack Ukraine but has continued to make provocative military moves while also demanding guarantees from the West that NATO will not accept Ukraine and other former Soviet nations as members, that it halt weapon deployments there, and also roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

Both Washington and NATO have rejected the demands as nonstarters.

Macron said earlier that he had made proposals of “concrete security guarantees” to Putin and that the Russian leader had assured him of his “readiness to engage in this sense and his desire to maintain stability and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

“I obtained that there will be no degradation nor escalation,” Macron told journalists upon arriving in Kyiv when describing his talks with Putin.

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 7.
French President Emmanuel Macron (right) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 7.

At the news conference with Macron, Zelenskiy struck a more cautious note, saying that Ukraine is looking for concrete steps from Putin to prove he is serious about de-escalating tensions and pulling back Russian troops from the border.

“Openness is always great, if it’s true and not a game, but serious openness, not a joke, and understanding that there is a serious danger,” Zelenskiy said.

“I do not really trust words. I believe that every politician can be transparent by taking concrete steps,” he added.

France’s presidential office has said Macron proposed that both sides pledge not to take any new military action while also launching a strategic dialogue.

It also said an agreement would provide for the withdrawal of some 30,000 Russian troops from Belarus at the end of joint military exercises later this month.

U.S. officials say Russia has deployed some 110,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is on track to amass a large enough force — some 150,000 soldiers — for a full-scale invasion by the middle of the month.

Putin said after the talks that Moscow would “do everything to find compromises that suit everyone,” adding that several proposals put forward by Macron could form a basis for moving forward on the crisis over Ukraine.

“A number of his ideas, proposals…are possible as a basis for further steps,” Putin said, adding that he and Macron would talk again by phone after the French president’s talks with Zelenskiy.

U.S. President Joe Biden held his own crisis talks with Scholz in Washington on February 7 as the flurry of diplomacy over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine spanned two continents.

U.S. President Joe Biden (right) holds a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House in Washington on February 7.
U.S. President Joe Biden (right) holds a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House in Washington on February 7.

The two leaders stressed their unity and trust as they work to further deter Russian aggression in Europe. Biden said Germany and the United States were in “lockstep” as they work to address tensions.

In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, Biden also vowed to “bring an end” to the disputed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built to deliver Russian gas to Germany but has not yet gone into operation.

Scholz said Germany and the United States will act together in their response to any Russian invasion, which Moscow denies it is planning. He said both countries are ready to enact far-reaching, severe measures if an invasion occurs.

Scholz will continue his diplomatic efforts next week, traveling to Kyiv and Moscow on February 14-15. Germany has come under criticism from Kyiv for refusing to send military equipment to Ukraine.

In a separate development, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on February 8 that six of its warships were heading to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean for naval drills in what it said was a pre-planned movement of military resources.

Russia announced last month that its navy would stage a sweeping set of exercises involving all its fleets in January and February.

The six ships are scheduled to pass through Turkey’s straits to the Black Sea on February 8 and 9, Turkish sources said.

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