Putin receives Macron; NATO continues military buildup in Eastern Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirms military buildup will continue in Eastern Europe till 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met Monday with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Moscow to discuss the Ukrainian crisis and the issue of security guarantees.
During the meeting, Putin said Moscow and Paris had common concerns over the security situation in Europe, and that France had for years worked toward a solution to the Ukraine conflict.
"We discussed all these issues in sufficient detail over the phone. I know that you have your own thoughts on this matter. I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet and discuss all this in a personal format," he said.
"I see how much effort the current leadership of France and personally the president of France are making to resolve the crisis associated with ensuring equal security in Europe for a serious historical perspective and to resolve issues that are closely related to the first part, namely, the resolution of the internal Ukrainian crisis in southeast of the country," the Russian leader added.
"And I must say that over all these years, as I just said, France has been taking the most active part in resolving fundamental issues of European security," he told a press conference, noting that this also applied to the crisis that arose after Georgia's attack on South Ossetia, the development of the Minsk agreements, and the implementation of the Normandy format.
Macron: The critical situation in Europe is concerning
For his part, Macron said the Ukrainian issue was significantly important and they would be discussing it along with other issues, noting that every party "must act responsibly when it comes to security, and dialogue is necessary."
He noted that he and Putin were beginning to build a "constructive arrangement," which was "mutually acceptable" to Russia and the rest of Europe to "help us avoid war."
"This dialogue is absolutely essential, more than ever, to ensure the stability and security of the European continent," he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at Russia earlier in the day, as part of a diplomatic move to defuse the situation with Ukraine amid NATO's attempts to expand eastward in Europe.
Macron has been making phone calls with Western allies, Putin, and Ukraine's Zelensky over the past week. After his visit to Russia on Monday, Macron will visit Ukraine on Tuesday.
Stoltenberg: NATO considers longer-term military presence in Eastern Europe
On a separate note, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated Monday that "Russia has rescheduled its annual exercise of nuclear forces for this month."
In a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, he said, "I reiterate my invitation to Russia to meet with NATO Allies in the NATO-Russia Council [...] We are ready to listen to their concerns, to discuss NATO-Russia relations, risk reduction, and transparency, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, and other issues that affect our security."
Stoltenberg noted that NATO's increased presence "is an increased presence over the last weeks. And we are in the process of stepping up. Then we have increased the readiness of the NATO Response Force to be able to deploy it quickly if needed.
He warned that NATO has a response force of around 40,000 troops that they can deploy on short notice, saying that on top of that, they were "discussing more long-term adjustments."
Britain sends 350 additional soldiers to Poland
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace announced Monday that the UK was going to send 350 additional troops to Poland, an extra number to the 100 British military engineers that were deployed last year during the migrant crisis at the Polish-Belarussian border.
In a press conference with his Polish counterpart, Wallace said, "We will add to those 100 engineers by sending a further 350 British troops to Poland as a bilateral deployment to show that we can work together and send a strong signal that Britain and Poland stand side by side."
The UK defense minister added that the UK and Poland did the right thing by meeting to talk about what they can do to prevent Russia's "foolish mistake" of invading Ukraine.
The United States is increasingly militarizing Eastern Europe under the pretext that Russia is preparing for military operations in Ukraine.
Russia denies any such plans and demands comprehensive security guarantees, including a NATO pledge never to allow Ukraine to join it.
Nord Stream will not proceed if Russia invades: US
"If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward," Victoria Nuland, a senior US State Department official, told reporters.
"I think the statements coming out of Berlin even today are very, very strong," she asserted.
When asked why Washington was so confident the Russian pipeline would not proceed, Nuland said the pipeline still had not been tested nor certified by German regulators.
"We will work with Germany to ensure that the pipeline does not move forward," Nuland said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told parliament earlier Thursday that her government was "working on a strong package of sanctions" alongside Western allies "including Nord Stream 2" if Russia attacks Ukraine.
Berlin had assured the United States that if the situation between Russia and Ukraine spirals into a conflict, the gas would not run via Nord Stream 2.