Russia hints at possible diplomatic opening as Putin talks to Macron

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, right, and Sergey Lavrov, his foreign minister, at the Kremlin in Moscow. (Photo: NYTimes)
PARIS — Even as the Pentagon warned that Moscow continued to deploy more forces to its border with Ukraine, Russia’s foreign minister suggested that there may be room to negotiate with the United States on at least on some issues.اضافة اعلان

At the same time, President Emmanuel Macron of France held a phone call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Friday morning in the hopes of easing the escalating tensions in Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the United States’ recent written response to its security demands contained “a kernel of rationality” for a possible compromise on issues like missile deployments and military exercises.

“If it depends on Russia, then there will be no war,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio. “We don’t want wars. But we also won’t allow our interests to be rudely trampled, to be ignored.”

However, Russia has put a broad set of issues on the table — essentially calling for a reshaping of the post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe and a retreat of NATO forces from Eastern Europe. That is a nonstarter for the United States and its Western allies.

Western officials say that Russia’s public statements, often contradictory, do not square with the actions it has taken to poise its military menacingly on Ukraine’s borders to the north, south and east.

So, the situation remains one of both contradiction and confrontation.

Military forces continued to surround Ukraine en masse. The Pentagon said that in the past 24 hours, more Russian forces were being moved into the region. Meanwhile, the United States and its European allies continued to send arms to Ukraine as NATO stepped up its defensive positions in Eastern Europe.

At the center of the maelstrom, in Ukraine, the government urged the public to remain calm, played down the immediacy of the threat and expressed concern about the heightened messaging from both the West and Russia.

As Ukrainian soldiers dug into trenches along the snow-covered eastern front, children were out sledding in Kyiv, the capital. Most people went about their daily lives.

Neither Paris nor Berlin see the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine with the same urgency as Washington or the countries closer to Ukraine, including Poland and the Baltic states.

France has insisted in recent days on the need to “deescalate” the crisis to avoid stumbling into a “self-fulfilling” conflict, fueled by misperceptions and exaggerated speech. But it has also stood firmly with its NATO allies in the standoff with Russia, offering, for instance, to send troops to Romania.

Macron has long advocated a more conciliatory approach to Russia than the United States or some of his European allies, and he has repeatedly stressed the need to keep dialogue with Moscow firm but open.

In a statement released after their phone call, the Kremlin said “the principal concerns of Russia went unaddressed.”

The Kremlin statement said Putin was still studying the U.S. and NATO written responses and “after that will decide on its further actions.”

Putin has not commented publicly on the crisis since before Christmas, leaving the West to largely speculate about his intentions.

Biden and Putin have not spoken one-on-one since a tense “virtual summit” in early December. The Biden administration called a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, which could make for a face-to-face debate on Ukraine between the United States and Russia.

Macron’s attempts to reset relations with Russia have stumbled and his enthusiasm for a rapprochement with Putin has waned in recent years — especially after Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent opponent, was poisoned in an operation later revealed to be orchestrated by the Kremlin.

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