Biden threatens “tough” economic sanctions if Russia provokes war and urges Moscow to “reduce escalation”
Judging by the statements prior to the telematics summit of just over two hours that the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the United States, Joe Biden, held yesterday, it was evident that the Kremlin would remain unshaken by two basic demands: that Ukraine comply with the Minsk agreements, in the version signed in February 2015, and that Kiev renounces the idea of joining NATO. Putin, according to diplomatic sources in Moscow, insisted that he has no intention of invading the neighboring country and that his country does not violate the pact, something that in his point of view Ukraine does.
However, according to the White House, the US president conveyed to his counterpart “the concern of the United States and its allies about the concentration of Russian forces alongside Ukraine.” In this sense, Biden asked “to reduce the current military escalation and return to diplomatic channels”, otherwise, he wielded once again the threat of applying “tough economic measures of all kinds.”
But while Putin and Biden were chatting by videoconference, the Kremlin’s foreign minister told reporters that the main task of this summit is to force Kiev to abide by the Minsk accords. “I insist once again that we are facing an important event in our relations: a telephone contact between Presidents Putin and Biden. It is a question – Sergey Lavrov affirmed – to make clear what our position is in relation to the way to solve the conflict in Ukraine, which is none other than forcing the Kiev regime to fulfill its obligations within the framework of the package of measures contained in the Minsk agreements. ‘
Speaking on the public channel Rossiya-1 on Sunday, Lavrov said that “if Ukraine does not intend to abide by the pact of its own free will, it will have to be forced.” The head of Moscow’s diplomacy explained that those who must force Kiev to come to its senses are Germany and France, the other western members of the Normandy Quartet.
The Minsk resolutions of 2015, reached within the Quartet and with the Belarusian dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, as host, contain several clauses on a ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of conflict and the approval of a new legislation in Ukraine. In the latter case, the Constitution would be retouched to grant a special autonomous status to Donbass, where elections should be held. After all that, Kiev would have to regain control of the territory and the border with Russia.
However, according to the Russian political scientist, Vladimir Pastujov, the agreements were a “trap” that was set for the then president of Kiev, Petro Poroshenko, and that he could not avoid because “he had the threat that the rebels would have continued, with the help of Russia, seizing more territory. Pastujov believes that “Russia will never deviate from what is established in Minsk because it is a war trophy, and it was also legitimized and recognized by the West.” However, in his view, “any compromise solution to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia is prevented.”
The telematics summit of more than two hours only serves to verify that the Kremlin is holding on to the 2015 concessions
Within this bilateral isolation, Russia permanently urges the Ukrainian government to speak with the separatists and in Kiev they first demand elections in order to dialogue with other leaders, not with those who led the revolt with the help of Moscow. So, in his column on the Moscow Radio Echo website, Pastukhov argues that Ukraine “has only two options: war or capitulation.”
And in Moscow, judging by the signals emitted by the Kremlin, there are fears that Kiev will opt for war with the help of the United States and NATO. Speaking to Russian television RT, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Monday that “the Alliance is now showing an extremely aggressive stance.” It also states that it does not recognize “any red line imposed by Russia”, alluding to the plans to integrate Ukraine into the Atlantic organization.
A week ago, Lavrov said he hoped that “Volodymyr Zelensky will not follow the path of Mikhail Saakashvili – former Georgian president – when he attacked South Ossetia in August 2008.” Moscow’s response was to send its troops there to aid the Ossetian and Abkhaz separatists.