Biden confers with European leaders as latest Ukraine talks fail


(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden held a call with transatlantic leaders on Friday to chart next moves as talks over Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine showed no sign of defusing the crisis.

Biden spoke about “coordination on both diplomacy and deterrence” with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, NATO, the European Commission, and the European Council, according to the White House.

The president has remained largely silent on Ukraine over the past few days, instead holding public events focused on the U.S. economy.

The transatlantic call came as NATO warned Europe was facing a “dangerous moment.”

“This is a dangerous moment for European security,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday in Brussels.

European leaders have engaged in intense diplomacy with Russia and Ukraine over the past several weeks to avoid war in eastern Europe. But the talks have so far failed to yield much apparent progress.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, before meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, the next day.

Russia and Ukraine held talks Thursday in Berlin, moderated by Germany and France, but after nine hours of discussion failed to even agree on issuing a joint statement.

Western officials had hoped that the latest round of the so-called “Normandy Format Talks” would push forward the diplomacy by Macron and other officials who have been shuttling between capitals over the past couple weeks.

The sides remained at an impasse, though, over Russia’s insistence that the Ukrainian government speak directly with Russian-backed separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.

Biden said Monday that Americans currently in Ukraine should leave, and on Thursday, he repeated that message with more urgency.

“American citizens should leave now,” Biden Thursday said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s not like we’re dealing with a terrorist organization. We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly.”

Senior U.S. officials say they do not believe Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has made a decision whether to invade Ukraine, even as he has amassed over 100,000 troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The U.S. and other Western nations have warned of severe economic consequences to Russia if it does invade. Russia denies it plans to do so.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Russia and Belarus kicked off 10 days of joint exercises in Belarus, north of Ukraine.

“As we said before, we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday in Melbourne, Australia. “To be clear, that includes during the Olympics.”

The Winter Olympics, which are ongoing in Beijing, are scheduled to end on Feb. 20.

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