White House says Biden accepts ‘in principle’ a meeting with Putin
U.S. President Joe Biden has ‘in principle’ accepted another meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, if a further invasion of Ukraine doesn’t happen by that time, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Feb. 20.
The Press Secretary was referring to continuing diplomatic efforts by the United States to defuse rising tensions on the Ukrainian border, caused by an unprecedented military build-up.
As part of those efforts, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, are set to meet this week in Europe – provided Russia does not proceed with military action against Ukraine.
“President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin following that engagement (between Blinken and Lavrov), again, if an invasion hasn’t happened,” Psaki said.
The press secretary said the United States is “…ready for diplomacy,” but added that it will also “impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war.
Currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon.
Russia has been massing troops at the border since late October.
On Feb. 16, U.S.-based CNN TV channel reported citing a Ukrainian intelligence report that the total number of Russian troops at the border had increased in recent days to more than 148,000, including more than 126,000 ground troops, but it is insufficient for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
While officially denying its intention to carry out a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues to provide arms and orders to its proxy groups in non-government controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
On Feb. 11, Blinken said that the U.S. government “continues to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.”
He warned that Russia could launch an invasion at any time, including during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
On Feb. 15, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that some troops arrayed near the Ukrainian border would be moving away from Ukraine, while military and naval exercises are proceeding in Belarus and the Black Sea.
However, outside observers have not noted any such drawback, and reports have indicated that Russia is continuing to mobilize its forces. Reuters reported that Russian military exercises were reaching their peak, and that the risk of Russian aggression against Ukraine would remain high for the rest of February.
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