Biden agrees in principle to Ukraine’s summit with Putin, US and French leaders said, offering a possible way out of one of the most dangerous European crises in decades.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement Monday that he had pitched both leaders at a summit on “security and strategic stability in Europe”. The White House said in a statement that Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle,” but only “if no invasion has occurred.”
“We are always ready for diplomacy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We are also prepared to impose swift and serious consequences if Russia chooses war instead.”
Messages asking for comment from the Kremlin and from the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were not immediately returned on Monday.
Many details about the proposed summit – which was announced after a spate of phone calls between Macron, Biden, Putin, Zelenskiy and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – are unclear.
Macron’s office and the White House said the contents of the summit will be worked out by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their upcoming meeting, scheduled for February 24. What role Ukraine would play at the summit, if any, was also uncertain.
An official from the Biden administration said in an email that the summit was “completely fictitious” as the timing and format had yet to be determined.
Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia, said he was skeptical the summit would take place.
“But if Biden and Putin met, they should invite (Zelenskiy) to join,” he said in a tweet.
News of Macron’s proposal comes after a week of heightened tensions spurred on by Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. Since late last year, Russian troops have been gathering around its neighbor, something Western countries say is a prelude to an invasion that could come at any moment.
Itineraries are jumbled amid the anxiety.