WASHINGTON: Prospects of a French-brokered summit meeting between US President and Russian President and Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at averting a war in Ukraine hung in balance on Monday after the two sides sought guarantees neither was willing to fully commit to.
Although both sides agreed in principle to a presidential-level meeting, the US said it could take place only if Russia committed to not invading Ukraine, a demand that disregarded Moscow’s assertion that it has no such plans.
US officials continued to insist Moscow has put in place troops and military hardware to embark on an invasion within hours, even as they ramped up their high-pitched campaign to allege that the Russian attack would be “extremely violent” and the US has “intelligence to suggest that there will be an even greater form of brutality” against Ukrainians, “to repress them, to crush them, to harm them.”
The Kremlin too played down prospects of a summit after the initial French announcement, saying it was “premature to talk about specific plans for a summit” and no concrete plans were in place. Moscow is demanding that the US and
commit to discussing a legally-binding Nato non-expansion agreement among topics to address Russia’s security concerns.
The US and Nato say that demand is a non-starter and Nato will continue to have an open-door policy that gives countries freedom to shape their foreign policy and choose their alliances. Finessing language to assure Russia that Ukraine’s entry into Nato is not imminent, and there could be some kind of moratorium on it, has not satisfied Moscow, which wants permanent, iron-clad guarantees.