US outlines position on Putin-Macron talks
Cooperative dialogue between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on a potential agreement for security guarantees in Europe is seen as encouraging by the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, Psaki remarked that Washington had been heartened by the two presidents’ discussion at Monday’s meeting in Moscow, which showcased “efforts at diplomacy.” She went on to say that interactions of such statesmanship “encourage” and “are encouraged by” the US government.
Despite surface-level American optimism, the true impact of the talks remains unclear. Psaki, in the same press conference on Tuesday, also noted that, despite the apparent progress made in Putin and Macron’s conversation, the de-escalation of tensions in Ukraine was not necessarily the inevitable next step.
The White House spokeswoman put this down to US uncertainty regarding potential next moves by Russia.
“We still don’t have any prediction of what President Putin will do. We can’t control what Russia will do next,” she said.
While France is not seeking free rein over Moscow, President Macron has repeatedly stressed the importance of dialogue with Putin, insisting that bilateral conversation “is the sole way of ensuring security and stability in Europe.”
The tone of the five-hour engagement between the two leaders on Monday was set by the French president, who publicly revealed that he went into the meeting in search of a “solution which helps to avoid war,” which he immediately made known to Putin.
In a press conference following Monday’s meeting, Macron revealed that he laid down several security proposals aimed at reducing tensions in Ukraine, some of which Putin agreed to “move forward” on. Namely, as reported by Britain’s Financial Times on Tuesday, the Russian president has agreed to withdraw 30,000 troops from Belarus after the Russia-Belarus joint ‘Union Resolve’ military training exercises finish on February 20, and has promised not to undertake any new “military initiatives” in the region.
The French president also acknowledged a “breakthrough” during the talks when he supposedly received a pledge from Putin that Russia would not escalate the conflict further.
For his part, Putin has acknowledged Macron’s ongoing efforts to defuse tensions, especially in the context of continued accusations from the West toward Russia regarding Moscow’s purported plans to invade neighboring country Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any plans for an incursion, and the threat of escalation has also been played down by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.