US soldiers start arriving in Europe to bolster NATO amid Russia’s rise

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping called on the West to ‘abandon ideologized Cold War approaches’ as the two leaders showed their deepened ‘limitless’ relationship amid a standoff between Moscow and Russia. West about Ukraine.

Xi and Putin, who were in Beijing on February 4 for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, met before the start of the festivities.

The joint statement, which notes that “the friendship between the two states has no limits, there are no ‘prohibited’ areas of cooperation”, came as Russia mustered more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and demands European security guarantees. , including the promise that Kiev will never be admitted into NATO.

With the crisis showing no signs of abating, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in a February 4 call that Western allies must send a “clear and consistent” message to Russia on the repercussions of any further invasion of Ukraine.

Johnson and Scholz also agreed on the importance of dialogue with Moscow and said they would seek to use all available diplomatic channels to end current tensions.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor Scholz stressed the need for the allies to send a clear and consistent message to Russia, including on the repercussions of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine,” a British statement said.

They also agreed to continue to work together and with other international partners on a comprehensive sanctions package, and Johnson stressed that these sanctions should be “ready to take effect immediately in the event of a further Russian incursion into Ukraine”, says the press release.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone on February 4 with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to discuss strengthening the Russian military and measures “to encourage Russia to continue the diplomacy in the face of war and to ensure security and stability”.

Blinken reaffirmed the willingness of the United States and its allies “to impose swift and severe consequences on Russia if it chooses to escalate,” according to a State Department statement. noted.

Putin’s trip to China marks his first face-to-face meeting with Xi since 2019 and comes as the two countries increasingly align their foreign policies.

China’s relations with the West are also increasingly strained over Beijing’s human rights record, particularly its treatment of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang province. , its expansionist stance in the South China Sea and its actions in Hong Kong.

Putin told Xi that Russia had prepared a new deal to supply China with 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas from its Far East as unrest over Ukraine threatened to derail the controversial Nord Stream pipeline 2 from the Baltic Sea, which should start to see Russian gas. supplies are flowing directly to Germany in the near future.

whirlwind of diplomacy

As the diplomatic wave around the Ukraine crisis continues, the European Union has warned Russia that it has put in place a “robust and comprehensive” set of sanctions against Moscow if Russia invades Ukraine.

“We have prepared a solid and comprehensive set of financial and economic sanctions,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview with the Handeslblatt and Les Echos newspapers on February 4, adding that these include “ capping access to foreign capital” and “export controls, especially on technical goods.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (file photo)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (file photo)

Von der Leyen said the pipeline was also part of the sanctions package. The commissioning of the pipeline depends “on the behavior of Russia”, she said.

“Putin’s relatives and oligarchs could, of course, be sensitively affected,” von der Leyen added.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke by telephone on February 3 with Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, announced that he would visit Russia on February 7 and Ukraine on February 8.

Macron will discuss the situation in Ukraine with the two leaders, the Elysee Palace said in a February 4 statement.

Zelenskiy hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on February 3, who offered to mediate the deadlock between Kiev and Moscow.

Erdogan said Turkey was “ready to do its part in order to end the crisis between two friendly nations that are its Black Sea neighbours”.

Erdogan is the latest leader from a NATO country to visit Kiev amid heightened diplomacy to ease tensions over Russia’s military buildup near its border with Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg accused Moscow on February 3 of mustering some 30,000 combat troops and modern weapons in Belarus ahead of joint military exercises scheduled for later this month. Stoltenberg called Russia’s deployment the largest in Belarus since the end of the Cold War

Stoltenberg’s announcement came after Washington said it would send thousands of troops to Europe to bolster NATO allies amid an ongoing stalemate sparked by massive Russian troop buildups.

With reports from Reuters, AP, AFP and dpa

Mary I. Bruner