White House vows diplomacy as Putin steps up rhetoric
The White House said Thursday that Washington is keeping a close eye on Moscow and remains committed to diplomacy in upcoming high-level talks. It comes amid increasingly heated rhetoric from the Russian leader, who on Thursday accused US and NATO allies of undermining his country as he continues to mass troops near the Russian border with Ukraine.
“You have expanded NATO to the east,” President Vladimir Putin said Thursday at his usual year-end marathon press conference, where he also accused Western intelligence services of trying to break the Russian Federation using terrorist groups. , we asked you not to do it, as you promised.
“But we were told, ‘Where is that written on paper? It doesn’t, so you can buzz. We don’t care about your worries. It’s happened year after year, and every time we’ve stepped back and tried to prevent something or express our concern, [we were told], ‘No, share your concerns, we’ll do what we see fit.’ ”
“The facts are a funny thing,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, responding to reporters’ questions about Putin’s accusations. “And the facts clearly show that the only aggression we see on the border of Russia and Ukraine is the military build-up of the Russians and the belligerent rhetoric of the leader of Russia.”
Psaki said the United States will hold high-level talks with the Russian government in early January, but she did not give more details on when the talks could take place, where they will take place or who will be involved. Administration officials have refused to respond publicly to Moscow’s demands, including that NATO refuse membership in Ukraine and that the security alliance reduce its deployments in central and eastern Europe.
“However, Russia has chosen to handle things, we do not plan to negotiate in public,” a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday. “It does not seem constructive to us nor the way in which progress has been made in such diplomatic conversations in the past. We are not going to respond to all the proposals or comments that are made, including from the Russian president. ”
Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden held a virtual call with Putin. During the call, the two men discussed the approximately 100,000 troops gathered on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited troops in the eastern Donetsk region earlier this month and said his forces were able to repel a Russian offensive.
Biden welcomed Zelenskiy to the White House in September, and then assured him that the United States was “firmly committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.”
The White House has also made it clear that there will be “significant consequences” if Russia invades. These include tough economic sanctions and increased security support for Ukraine.
“All of this planning is well advanced on our side, and we are ready to act if and when we need it,” said the administration official.
But is Putin planning to cross this border? American Enterprise Institute analyst Fred Kagan doesn’t think the Russian president thinks it: On the one hand, Kagan wrote, it would be “by far the most important, daring and risky military operation.” that Moscow has launched since the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 ”.
“It would be a marked departure from the approaches that Putin has relied on since 2015, and a major shift in his willingness to openly use conventional Russian military power,” he wrote, in a published assessment earlier this month. “It would cost Russia huge sums of money and possibly several thousand casualties and destroyed vehicles and planes.”