High-stakes diplomacy continued on Friday in a bid to avert a war in Eastern Europe. The urgent efforts come as 100,000 Russian troops are massed near the Ukrainian border and the Biden administration fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could stage some kind of invasion within weeks.
Here are some things to know about international tensions around Ukraine.
A DIPLOMATIC DEADLOCK
The head of Russian diplomacy said on Friday that Moscow would not start a war but that it would not allow the West to flout its security interests either.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was little room for compromise after the West rejected key Russian demands that NATO would never accept Ukraine as a member and cancel deployments in Eastern Europe.
Lavrov said “if they say they won’t change their positions, we won’t change ours.”
He noted, however, that the United States – in a recent written response to Russian requests – suggested the two sides could discuss other important issues. These include limits on the deployment of intermediate-range missiles, restrictions on military exercises and rules to prevent accidents between warships and aircraft.
He stressed that these issues are secondary to Russia’s main demands.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke for more than an hour with his Russian counterpart in the hope that diplomacy could avert a war.
Macron’s appeal to Putin had two purposes, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said earlier this week: “to continue the dialogue” and “to push Russia to clarify its position and the objective of the (military) maneuvers. “.
Macron “is at the heart of de-escalation efforts,” Attal added.
Macron is also due to meet in the evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
RUSSIA SUSPENDS MILITARY INSPECTIONS
Germany regretted that Russia had suspended mutual military inspections at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and NATO.
The inspections are designed as confidence-building measures between the members of organizations for security and cooperation in Europe.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said Russia recently announced it would suspend inspections until the end of February, citing the spread of the omicron variant.
“Because of this, an inspection on Russian territory in the border region of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, which Russia had previously agreed to, will currently not be possible,” the spokesperson said, Christopher Burger.
“We expressly regret this step because, especially in the current situation, anything that creates greater transparency would help reduce tensions,” he said. “That is why we call on Russia to voluntarily and widely inform OSCE member states about its activities.”
Burger said Russia also unilaterally canceled inspections it was to conduct in Germany.
EXPOSE THE DISINFORMATION, BUT ARE THERE RISKS?
In a break with the past, the United States and its allies are increasingly revealing their intelligence findings as they confront Russian preparations to invade Ukraine, seeking to undermine Putin’s plans by exposing and exposing them. diverting its efforts to shape world opinion.
In recent weeks, the White House has gone public with what it said was developing a Russian false flag operation to create a pretext for an invasion.
Britain named specific Ukrainians it accused of having links to Russian intelligence officers plotting to overthrow Zelenskyy. The United States also released a map of Russian military positions and detailed how officials believe Russia will attempt to attack Ukraine with up to 175,000 troops.
But the dissemination of information is not without risks. Intelligence assessments come with varying degrees of certainty, and beyond offering photos of troop movements, the United States and its allies have provided little other evidence. Moscow dismissed Washington’s claims as hysteria and cited past failures of US intelligence, including false information about Iraq’s weapons programs.
WHAT ABOUT THESE GERMAN HOWITZERS?
German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said a decision had not yet been made on whether to approve Estonia’s request to transfer artillery guns to Ukraine.
Germany originally owned the howitzers and sold them to Finland who then sold them to Estonia.
Hebestreit warned on Friday against pursuing what he called “military logic” amid demands for German approval to deliver the howitzers to Ukraine.
“If needed, that wouldn’t be a real solution either,” Hebestreit said. “It’s not a game-changer now.”
WILL RUSSIAN GAS CONTINUE TO FLOW?
The German government spokesman said Russia remained a reliable natural gas supplier, but Berlin was preparing for all scenarios.
Spokesman Steffen Hebestreit made the remark on Friday amid fears Russia could cut off natural gas supplies to Europe.
“From our point of view, Russian gas supply contracts are fulfilled everywhere so far and we firmly assume that this will remain the case and that Russia will continue to be a reliable contract partner,” Hebestreit said.
“At the same time, it is clear that you have to prepare for all eventualities, and that is what the German government is doing,” he added, declining to give further details.
HOW IS THE UK STRENGTHENING ITS CYBER DEFENSES?
The UK’s National Cyber Security Center is urging companies to step up measures to protect computer networks amid the current crisis in Ukraine.
The center said Friday it was investigating recent reports of “malicious cyber incidents” in Ukraine and that the attacks are similar to Russian behavior seen in past conflicts.
Although the authorities are not aware of any specific threats against the UK, the center encourages large organizations to strengthen online defenses to protect computer networks from potential attacks. The center is part of GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and it is essential that organizations follow the guidelines to ensure they are resilient,” said Paul Chichester, NCSC’s chief operating officer. “Over several years, we have observed a pattern of malicious Russian behavior in cyberspace.”
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Frank Jordans in Berli and Danica Kirka in London contributed.