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Despite Biden and Macron, Western allies remain united against Russia – POLITICO

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Despite Biden and Macron, Western allies remain united against Russia – POLITICO

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Western officials went into overdrive on Thursday to contain any damage from Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron.

The US president’s misguided remark suggesting the NATO powers might tolerate a ‘minor incursion’ by Russia into Ukraine came the same day as the French president’s assertion that the Europeans should negotiate their own version of a new security order with Moscow.

The mistimed misrepresentations, if that’s what they were, by the commanders-in-chief of two of NATO’s major nuclear powers sparked tremors in capitals from Kiev to Ottawa, but in the end only seemed like strengthen Western unity by pushing back against Russia. This suggests that it may be the Kremlin that should have been most alarmed.

Among the chief defenders of the presidents was EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who used a brief appearance with Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly in Brussels to insist everything was under control and that neither Biden nor Macron had said anything remotely – a far-fetched assertion but one he made without blushing.

“Nothing new, but important,” Borrell said of Biden’s comment. “There is certainly a big threat on the Ukrainian border,” he continued, adding: “We are working with the allies in order to be ready to implement a response, which will be very costly for Russia in the event of aggression against Ukraine. So President Biden’s formulation was going in exactly the same direction that we have been working in.”

That was not quite how Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saw things in Kyiv. “We want to remind the big powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,” Zelesnkiy tweeted. “Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief over the loss of loved ones.” Then he added a little embellishment of his own: “I say that as the president of a great power.”

As for Macron, Borrell noted that he was present in Strasbourg when the French president gave a speech in which he appeared to suggest that Europeans should chart their own path to a security deal in Russia. But Borrell said nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, he said, Macron had said nothing new or unusual.

“About President Macron, I was there, and I think that’s also an important statement, but it’s part of what we’ve been saying from the start,” Borrell said, “that the Europeans have to present their point of view on this issue, that nothing can be agreed on European security or security in Europe without the participation of Europeans.

Borrell continued: “And President Macron did not say that the Europeans were going to present their own proposals to the Russians. He said that with the allies, the Europeans must bear in mind what they understand by order of security in Europe. And on that, I completely agree with President Macron.

However, not everyone agreed with Borrell’s assessment.

Even some European officials who said they agreed with Macron’s ultimate goal for Europe to develop its own vision for a new security order acknowledged that the French president’s remarks were poorly timed and suggested cracks. in Western unity – cracks which they claim do not in fact exist.

“It’s all about timing,” said a senior EU diplomat. “As a medium-term objective, it is certainly right for the EU to decide on a common position on the security architecture that we want. But that doesn’t change the current reality on the ground.

“Such a discussion would take a long time,” added the senior European diplomat. “While the talks at the moment are focused on preventing Russia from a possible imminent military aggression against Ukraine. Given the situation, it is not surprising that at present many Eastern European EU countries look primarily to NATO and the transatlantic alliance with the United States to defuse the crisis.

Asked about the problems caused by Macron’s call for a common European proposal, another senior European diplomat replied: “Problems for whom? EU states that are members of NATO have their discussion platform with Russia. All EU countries are represented in the OSCE [the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe]. And by the way, do we have the content of such a proposal? So certainly his call raised many questions. But the real problem is elsewhere: at the Ukrainian borders.

Macron, in his speech to the European Parliament, said: “The next few weeks must lead us to finalize a European proposal building a new order of security and stability, we must build it between Europeans, then share it with our allies in Europe. NATO and then submit it to negotiation with Russia.

An adviser to Macron insisted the French leader had not suggested Europe go its own way or divert attention from ongoing diplomatic cooperation to respond to Russia.

“It’s not about establishing a parallel path between Europeans and Russians,” the adviser said. “It is a question of consolidating the European position and of registering our demands in each aspect, of dealing with each file in the appropriate format: Normandy format for Ukraine, arms control via NATO and the OSCE. On the Helsinki Accords, yes, there will come a time when it will be necessary to have a dialogue at a high political level and indeed it could be an EU-Russia dialogue.

The adviser added: “It would be crazy not to start a dialogue between the Europeans and Russia [in due time].”

Other European diplomats praised Macron on his substance if not his timing.

“As a Greek official, I can tell you that we support President Macron’s ideas for strategic autonomy,” said Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister. “Strengthening the role of the EU in global affairs and European security in particular is part of our vision for the EU.”

Focus on sanctions

Despite all the pirouettes and worries, the bulk of the diplomatic work – crafting a set of sanctions the West would impose on Moscow in the event of another attack – proceeded apace.

Officials said diplomats were consulting daily as the United States and NATO prepared to respond in writing to requests for Russian security guarantees, many of which have already been dismissed as “non-starting”.

A central European defense official said: “There is a strong consensus among the allies, especially regarding Russia’s demands.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Berlin, and they also held a wider meeting which included French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and British Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa and North America James Cleverly — a format now called the “Transatlantic Quad” to differentiate it from another group that the United States forms with India, Japan and Australia.

Blinken, in a speech in Berlin moderated by a consortium of research organizations, disputed Moscow’s claims that its massive troop buildup on the Ukrainian border was necessary because its security was endangered.

“So far, our willingness to engage in good faith has been pushed back because, in truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases,” Blinken said. “It’s about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and all states, and basically it’s about Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole , free and at peace.”

Blinken is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

The continued frenzy of diplomatic activity illustrated how Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken control of the global geopolitical scene.

In Berlin, Baerbock greeted Blinken, noting that he had just arrived from Ukraine, where she visited on Monday, and she stressed that Blinken would see Lavrov on Friday, noting that she had met him in Moscow on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Biden backtracked on his comments about a minor incursion, saying, “Any — any — assembled Russian unit crosses the Ukrainian border, it’s an invasion.”

In the end, it was Joly, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, who perhaps summed up the situation most succinctly.

“Russia is already in Ukraine,” she said, alongside Borrell. “We are talking about a real threat of another invasion of Ukraine. So in that sense, as my colleague just mentioned, a threat is a threat and we are very, very concerned about this new invasion of Ukraine.

Jakob Hanke Vela, Matthew Karnitschnig and Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting.

Despite Biden and Macron, Western allies remain united against Russia – POLITICO

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