Joe Biden increases pressure on Moscow and consults with Europe

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To show its firmness towards Moscow, Washington announced on Monday that it had placed up to 8,500 soldiers on alert, ready to reinforce NATO troops. The Europeans, more cautious, call for not creating more “volatility” in the Ukrainian crisis.

By announcing the possible deployment of thousands of American soldiers to reinforce the NATO troops, Joe Biden significantly increased the pressure on Moscow on Monday, January 24.

The United States has placed up to 8,500 military personnel on high alert. That means they could be ready in five days to bolster the military alliance’s 40,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday. “No decision has been made on a deployment of forces outside the United States at this time,” he added. But “it is very clear”, he added, “that the Russians currently have no intention of initiating a de-escalation”.

The American president is trying to tilt in his favor the balance of power established by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, by massing troops and equipment on the border with Ukraine.

“Total unanimity”

Joe Biden had a videoconference of just under an hour and a half on Monday with several European leaders, whom this mounting pressure from the Americans seemed to take aback.

He praised the “total unanimity” between Americans and Europeans shortly after the end of this meeting, which was attended by Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Polish President Andrzej Duda, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

According to a statement from the White House, the leaders “underlined their common desire for a diplomatic resolution”, but also spoke of their “preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia” in the event of a invasion, and to “strengthen security on NATO’s eastern front”.

The participants “were all of the opinion that it is up to Russia to undertake visible initiatives of de-escalation”, commented for his part the German Chancellor, assuring that Moscow would suffer “very heavy consequences” in the event of invasion.

In unison, Jens Stoltenberg spoke to him in a tweet of “severe costs” in the event of “new aggression” against Ukraine.

“Volatility”

The Europeans had previously seemed wary of the increasingly tough rhetoric and decisions of the United States, which for example decided to remove the families of diplomats stationed in Kiev, an initiative followed by London and Canberra.

France, which currently assumes command of NATO’s rapid reaction force, called for “not to create ambiguity, additional volatility”. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, invited him not to “dramatize”. The Ukrainian authorities have also deemed Washington’s decision concerning their diplomatic representation “premature” and “excessive”.

Moscow denounced “hysteria” and accused the United States and NATO “of exacerbating tensions through announcements and concrete actions”.

“A path of de-escalation”

Along with this rise in pressure, Westerners continue despite everything to explore the diplomatic path. According to a European source, a new meeting would thus be planned between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The United States has promised a written response to Russian requests. During the interview with Joe Biden, the French president stressed “the importance of the European Union being able to play its full part” in this response, according to a press release from the Élysée.

In this text, which unlike that of the Americans does not expressly mention NATO, France insists on the need to continue diplomatic efforts. Emmanuel Macron wants to propose “a path of de-escalation” to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during an interview “in the coming days”.

With AFP

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