February 18, 2022
MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin told visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow on Tuesday that he is “ready to work” with the West on de-escalating tensions, the latest signal that the prospect of war with Ukraine could be receding.
The first face-to-face meeting of the two leaders since Scholz took office lasted slightly over three hours and received high marks from both leaders. Putin noted its businesslike atmosphere, while Scholz said not a single subject was omitted by them.
The meeting came hours after Russia announced it was beginning to pull back some of its 160,000 troops from the border with Ukraine following the end of military drills. Days earlier, the United States and its allies raised the alarm over concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine at any moment, with several countries ordering their citizens to leave and evacuating their embassies in Kyiv.
Putin said at a news conference following his meeting with Scholz that Russia does not want war, and that is why it submitted proposals on security guarantees in Europe and hopes that their key points will be taken into account during negotiations.
“We are ready to work further together. We are ready to go down the negotiations track,” he said.
Putin emphasized that Russia “cannot turn a blind eye” to how Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “freely interpret” the principle of indivisibility of security－that no country should strengthen its security at the expense of others.
In response to a question about Moscow’s further steps in the Ukraine situation, Putin said the steps will “follow a plan”. He said the plan will be shaped based on “the actual situation on the ground”, and that will depend not only on Russia.
Speaking of the prospects to continue the dialogue between Russia and the West, Scholz told reporters the West was very concerned over the accumulation of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border, but “I expressly agree that the diplomatic options are far from exhausted”.
He added that Russia’s withdrawal of some troops is “a good sign,” saying “we hope that more follow”.
Scholz’s meeting with Putin came after he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv the previous day.
“For Europeans, it is clear that lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia,” the German chancellor told reporters.
United States President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that there was still time to resolve the Ukraine crisis through diplomacy, but he warned that sanctions are “ready to go” if Russian troops invade the country.
In addition, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversation on Tuesday.
According to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov emphasized the necessity of continuing efforts, as agreed upon by Putin and Biden, to cooperate on the security proposals submitted by Russia to the US and NATO.
Lavrov underlined the unacceptability of the aggressive rhetoric by Washington and its allies, and called for a pragmatic dialogue on the entire range of issues raised by Russia, particularly the indivisibility of security.