French President Emmanuel Macron’s last-ditch diplomacy on Sunday appeared to offer some new hope for a peaceful resolution to the Ukrainian crisis, as White House officials stated that President Joe Biden would be willing to consider direct talks with his Russian counterpart so long as Russia does not invade.
Officials from the White House stated that a prospective summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin would only take place after discussions between the foreign ministers of the two nations, which are provisionally set for later this week, were completed.
According to a senior White House official, there are no preparations for either the structure or the date of a meeting between the two leaders at this time. Another official dismissed it all as “totally fictitious” and said that all information indicates that Russia still aims to attack Ukraine in the next days, according to him. Both officials agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity in order to disclose internal discussions.
Nonetheless, the possibility of another diplomatic overture, which came after Mr. Macron spoke by telephone with Mr. Putin on Sunday morning and later called Mr. Biden, was an indication that Mr. Biden and America’s European allies were still hopeful that Mr. Putin would be convinced that the costs of an invasion would be too high.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that President Biden has approved the concept of discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin “in principle” and that the United States remained committed to diplomacy “until the time an invasion starts.”
According to the statement, “should Russia chose to go to war instead of negotiating,” “we are also prepared to inflict fast and harsh repercussions.” As of right now, Russia looks to be continuing preparations for a full-scale invasion on Ukraine that is expected to take place shortly.”
A statement from Mr. Macron’s office said that the French president’s outreach to Russia began with a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday morning, during which the two leaders agreed on “the importance of prioritising a diplomatic solution to the current crisis” and the need to secure a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine within the next few hours.
As the statement went on to say, a diplomatic approach should allow for “an unprecedented conference at the highest level in order to create a new peace and security order in Europe” if the “conditions are satisfied.”
Mr. Macron then spoke with President Joe Biden over the phone.
As stated in a second statement released by the French presidency, Mr. Macron had suggested a summit between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin, followed by a meeting of “important stakeholders” to address “security and strategic stability” across the European Union.
As of late Sunday night, it was unclear precisely how substantial the fresh attempts to prevent another big European conflict had been.
The Kremlin expressed a lack of confidence in the prospects for diplomacy. Mr. Putin’s assertion that Western countries were pressuring Ukraine’s government to pursue a “military solution” to its conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east was reiterated in a statement released following the phone call between Mr. Putin and Mr. Macron, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Separatist leaders started evacuating women and children over the weekend, fearing that an attack against the separatist regions was coming. The Ukrainian government in Kyiv has insisted that it has no intentions to launch an offensive against the separatist territory.
Also on Sunday night, White House officials said that they continued to receive signs that Mr. Putin was pushing through with preparations to attack Ukraine at a very short notice. Officials revealed on Sunday that the United States received information last week indicating that the Kremlin had issued the order for Russian armed troops to invade Ukraine.
Several administration officials downplayed news of a potential meeting on Sunday, claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a history of consenting to discussions even as he prepares for — and eventually participates in — military action.
However, they underlined that the meeting between Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, which is set for this week, would be cancelled if Russian soldiers cross the border into Ukraine.