Russian Defense Ministry press service via AP
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Moscow and Kiev next week as part of his effort to try to dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from launching an invasion of Ukraine and finding a diplomatic way out of rising tensions.
The visit on Monday and Tuesday comes after the United States on Thursday accused the Kremlin of an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action. The United States has not provided detailed information to support these assertions.
While France is a major player in NATO and is moving troops to Romania as part of the alliance’s preparation for possible Russian action, Macron has also actively pushed for dialogue with Putin and spoken to him on several occasions. these last weeks. The two men will hold a one-on-one meeting on Monday, Macron’s office said Friday.
Macron is following a French tradition of distancing himself from the United States in geopolitics, while trying to put his own stamp on this crisis and defend the interests of Europe.
But after weeks of talks in various diplomatic formats that resulted in no major concessions from Russia and the United States, it’s unclear what impact his trip will have.
During a call Wednesday with US President Joe Biden, Macron briefed him on his diplomatic efforts. In talks with Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Thursday evening, Macron’s office said it had discussed ways “to identify the elements likely to lead to de-escalation” and “the conditions for a strategic balance in Europe, which should allow to reduce the risks on the ground”. and ensure security on the continent.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, raising fears of another invasion of Moscow, as it did in 2014. The troop presence and uncertainty have baffled Ukrainians and harmed the country’s economy. Russian officials deny that an invasion is planned.
Putin, who is meeting Chinese President Xi Jingping in Beijing on Friday at the opening of the Winter Olympics, signaled an apparent readiness for further talks with Washington and NATO in recent days. Some experts say that as long as Russia and the West keep talking, there is reason for cautious optimism.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also offered to mediate the talks between Russia and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in Washington, US officials said a plan for a fake attack on Russian territory or Russian-speakers had been described in declassified intelligence shared with Ukrainian officials and European allies in recent days. It was the latest example of the Biden administration disclosing intelligence findings as a tactic to stop Russian disinformation efforts and foil what it says is Putin’s attempt to lay the groundwork for military action.
In recent weeks, the White House said US intelligence shows Russia launched a malicious social media disinformation campaign against Ukraine and dispatched explosives-trained operatives to carry out acts of sabotage. against Russia’s own proxy forces. Britain has leaked intelligence findings it says show Russia was plotting to install a pro-Russian puppet government in Ukraine.