Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is ready for a compromise and will consider proposals put forward by French leader Emmanuel Macron during talks on Monday, while blaming the West for increasing tensions over the ‘Ukraine.
After a meeting in the Kremlin which lasted more than five hours, the two leaders expressed the hope that a solution could be found to the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the cold war.
Moscow has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders, raising fears it is plotting a possible invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.
The West has repeatedly warned of the “serious consequences” of a Russian invasion, and Macron was the first major Western leader to meet Putin since the crisis began in December.
Repeatedly thanking the French leader for coming to Moscow, Putin told a joint press conference that Macron had presented several ideas worth considering.
“A number of his ideas, proposals… are possible as a basis for further steps,” Putin said, adding, “We will do everything to find compromises that suit everyone.”
He offered no details but said the two leaders would speak by phone after Macron’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Tuesday.
Macron said he made concrete proposals to address Russian and Western concerns.
“President Putin has assured me that he is ready to engage,” Macron said, adding: “There is no security for Europeans if there is no security for Russia. “.
The French presidency said the proposals included a commitment by both sides not to take further military action, the launch of a new strategic dialogue and efforts to relaunch the peace process in the Kiev conflict with separatists backed by Moscow in the east of the country.
Putin again denied that Russia was to blame for the tensions.
“To say that Russia is acting aggressively is illogical,” Putin said.
“We are not the ones heading towards NATO borders,” he said, referring to the alliance’s deployments in Eastern Europe.
The meeting in Moscow came at the start of a week of intense diplomacy over the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden also hosting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington on Monday.
Biden threatens the pipeline
Biden vowed adamantly during talks to shut down the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia to Europe if Moscow sends forces across Ukraine’s border as it did when annexing Crimea in 2014 .
“If Russia invades – that means tanks or troops crossing the border from Ukraine, again – then there will be no more Nord Stream 2,” Biden told a joint press conference at the White House with Scholz.
“I promise you,” Biden said, “we’ll end it.”
US officials say Moscow has amassed 110,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and is on track to muster a large enough force – some 150,000 troops – for a full-scale invasion by mid-February. .
Macron cited the figure of 125,000 Russian soldiers on Monday.
Russia insists it has no intention of attacking and has instead made its own demands for security guarantees.
It demands a permanent ban on Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, from joining the US-led alliance and for the bloc to cancel its military presence in Eastern Europe.
Macron, whose country currently leads the European Union, has tried to position himself as the key EU figure in negotiations with Russia.
Deployment of British and German troops
The new German government has been criticized by Ukraine and some in the United States for accusations that it is not fully engaging with US-led efforts to push back Russian military pressure on Ukraine.
Scholz said he and Biden were “absolutely united” on sanctions against Russia, although he repeatedly avoided mentioning the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline by name.
Biden reacted to the Russian troop buildup by offering 3,000 US troops to bolster NATO’s eastern flank, with a group of troops arriving in Poland on Sunday.
Britain said on Monday that 350 more British troops would be sent to the Polish border and Germany announced another 350 of its troops would go to Lithuania.
While Scholz was in Washington, his foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, was in Kyiv with her Czech, Slovak and Austrian counterparts for a two-day visit.
Scholz himself will be in Moscow and Kiev next week for talks with Putin and Zelensky.
Visits to Moscow by British foreign and defense ministers are also expected at the end of the week.