Vice President Harris will also hold a series of in-person meetings with U.S. allies and partners at the Munich Security Conference later this week, reaffirming Washington’s commitment to security in the region. The conference was launched by Western nations at the height of the Cold War to address military conflicts. The Kremlin has said it won’t send any officials to the conference.
Biden spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, reiterating the United States’ pledge that it would respond “swiftly and decisively” to any attack, the White House said, through sanctions and other measures designed to inflict severe economic penalties on Russia.
According to a readout of the call from Ukrainian officials, Zelensky invited Biden to visit Ukraine “in the coming days,” a visit Zelensky said would send “a powerful signal” and contribute to de-escalation. The White House has not announced any visit. The last U.S. president to visit Kyiv was George W. Bush in 2008.
Zelensky has expressed frustration about the grim warnings from U.S. military and intelligence officials about an imminent Russian invasion, which have taken a toll on Ukraine’s economy. The Ukrainian government said Sunday that it would start subsidizing domestic airlines’ insurance costs, in an effort to keep flights coming and going from the country. Ukraine’s SkyUp airline said Sunday that the Irish company that owns its aircraft banned one of its planes from entering Ukrainian airspace, forcing a flight from Portugal to Kyiv to land in Moldova. Dutch carrier KLM also suspended flights into Ukraine.
Ukraine also requested a meeting with Russia and other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe within 48 hours of Moscow’s failure to meet a Sunday deadline to explain its massing of more than 130,000 troops along its border with Ukraine, and in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Russia is a party to the OSCE’s Vienna Document, a mechanism through which any member of the European security organization can question another member regarding any military activities they perceive as threatening.
“If Russia is serious when it talks about the indivisibility of security in the OSCE space, it must fulfill its commitment to military transparency in order to de-escalate tensions and enhance security for all,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted late Sunday.
The OSCE has also monitored cease-fire violations from the rebel-held city of Donetsk as part of a stalled seven-year peace agreement that has failed to end the conflict that erupted in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said Sunday the OSCE mission was “being deliberately dragged into the militarist psychosis stoked by Washington and being used as an instrument for a possible provocation.”
The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian officials of not fulfilling their side of the 2015 peace deal and has sought assurances that Ukraine, a former Soviet state, will never be allowed to join the Western military alliance NATO.
A flurry of talks on both sides of the Atlantic in recent weeks has so far failed to find an off-ramp to the crisis. Even as the United States and Europe threaten Moscow with severe economic penalties in the event of an invasion, there are differences in their approach.
President Biden said last week that a controversial European gas pipeline project connecting Russia and Germany would not go ahead if the Kremlin sends its forces into Ukraine. Germany’s new chancellor has not made a firm commitment to abandoning the pipeline, nor spelled out any detail on potential sanctions, although he sought to project a united front with NATO allies during his first visit to the White House last week.
Scholz has said only that Moscow would pay a “high price” in the event of an attack, and has drawn criticism at home and abroad over his government’s refusal to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine as the U.S. and other NATO allies send missiles and other military equipment.
Germany and France have also made a point of keeping their embassies in Kyiv open despite the looming security threats that have led to the United States and many others reducing their personnel and urging citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible. France’s ambassador to Ukraine on Sunday said Paris is now advising French visitors to postpone all trips to the country, although it stopped short of recommending French people leave Ukraine.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday hit back at accusations that the United States was spreading panic by warning about a possible attack, saying Washington and its allies were preparing for all possible outcomes, including a possible diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
“If Russia moves forward, we will defend NATO territory. We will impose costs on Russia and we will ensure that we emerge from this as the West stronger, more determined, more purposeful than we have been in 30 years, and that Russia ultimately suffers a significant strategic cost for military action,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Rick Noack in Paris and Amy B Wang in Washington contributed to this article.
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