Biden will also Discuss the Crisis in Ukraine with Radev and Consider a NATO-Russia Meeting
US President Joe Biden is preparing a major diplomatic concession to prevent an escalation in the Russia-Ukraine crisis. A meeting between NATO and Russia, which he will try to convene, and other possible next steps will first be discussed with Ukraine and all allies in the Alliance, including Bulgaria.
Biden told US media yesterday that he hoped to announce such a high-level meeting on Friday. The aim is to examine "whether or not we can reach an agreement to lower the temperature on the eastern front." The new initiative was announced just a day after his telephone conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in search of a way out after weeks of tensions along the border with Ukraine, near which tens of thousands of troops have gathered on the Russian side. A U.S. intelligence report allows for a Russian invasion of nearly 175,000 troops in Ukraine early next year.
Nine Eastern European countries
Yesterday and late Tuesday, Biden spoke with Western leaders after discussing the issue with Putin, and today he will do so with Eastern ones. He will talk about his contact with Putin in the so-called Bucharest Nine of Eastern Europe, "made up of NATO allies on the Eastern Flank, to summarize his conversation with President Putin, hear their views on the current security situation and highlight the US commitment to transatlantic security."
The news was part of a White House statement that was not available on the White House website this morning, but was circulated by leading agencies such as Reuters and AFP.
The Bucharest Nine includes Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, the Czech Republic and Estonia. Biden's interlocutor on the Bulgarian side will probably be President Rumen Radev, as it is the heads of state who represent the participants in this Eastern European initiative during their meetings.
Before speaking with these leaders, Biden will discuss the situation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.
It is clear from the president's words that he does not mean a meeting of all NATO countries with Russian representatives, but "at least four of the leading allies" in the Alliance, without specifying which countries he means. This comes at a time when Russian officials are openly accepting the idea of the United States becoming part of the so-called Norman format for resolving the Ukrainian crisis - France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia.
"To be cut in the bud"
Biden has openly ruled out the option of the United States sending troops unilaterally if Russia invades Ukraine - at least because Kiev is not in NATO (but talks about economic sanctions "like Putin has never seen").
At the same time, weapons and ammunition will be sent to Ukraine as part of a 60 million euros security aid package, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was quoted as saying by CNN. However, this package was approved by Biden on September 1, before the current escalation, to strengthen Ukraine's defense capabilities. With the latest tranche, aid to Kiev in the sector has reached 450 million dollars since the beginning of the year.
Putin, meanwhile, has reiterated his commitment to NATO's commitment not to continue its eastward expansion and not to send troops and equipment that could be used to attack Russia from neighboring countries. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported, the Russian president never closed the door to the risk of invading Ukraine while seeking a solution to what he said was a "creeping threat" from NATO.
Putin later explained that despite a constructive conversation with Biden, "there is little reason for optimism so far."
The Financial Times notes that many Eastern European partners are likely to be stunned by the search for a "compromise" or "adjustment" to the situation, fearing that Putin is using the threat to make concessions to the US presence in Europe. The newspaper quoted a representative of an Eastern European member of NATO as saying that "under no circumstances should the debate on safeguards in the context of Eastern European security be allowed to unfold" and that compromise talk should be "cut short" and at least half of the countries in the EU thinks so.
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