ys1bk0″>WASHINGTON — A day after President Biden said he would be willing to talk to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about a possible peace deal in Ukraine, the Kremlin offered a cold response and prospects for resolving the brutal conflict remained dim. distant as always
Biden said Thursday he would have his first talk with Putin since before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 if the Russian leader was “looking for a way to end the war.” But US officials said that Russia, as they previously assessed, was not prepared to negotiate in good faith, and Russian officials repeated hardline claims that are unacceptable to kyiv.
Although some took Biden’s comment as a new emphasis on moving toward peace talks with Russia, John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters that Biden’s position had not changed.
“The president has been very consistent about it,” Kirby said. “He has no intention of speaking to Mr. Putin at this time. As he also said, Putin has shown absolutely no inclination to be interested in dialogue of any kind. In fact, quite the opposite. Everything he is doing shows that Mr. Putin is interested in continuing this unprovoked and illegal war.”
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov told a news conference on Friday that Putin remained “open to contacts and negotiations” and that diplomacy was the “preferred path” to achieve Russia’s goals.
But Peskov noted that the United States “does not yet recognize new territories as part of Russia,” an apparent reference to the eastern regions of Ukraine that Putin claimed to annex after bogus referendums in September, saying “this makes the situation more complicated”. seek common ground for mutual discussions.”
In fact, the Russian position essentially rules out serious negotiations with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said in a mid-November interview with Bloomberg News that the war could not end until Ukraine has reclaimed all of its territory from Russia, including the regions supposedly attached. as well as the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“The Russians have made it very clear that they are of course not in the mood for constructive dialogue and constructive diplomacy,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a news conference. Any conversation between Biden and Putin “is nothing more than a hypothesis at this point,” he added.
“We have made it abundantly clear that the United States and countries around the world will never—never, ever, ever—recognize territory that Russia has illegally annexed, whether in 2014 or more recently, as part of its illegal and now brutal aggression against Ukraine. Price added.
Biden’s comment, made during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has spoken to Putin several times over the past year, including in late August, follows some signs that senior US officials have considered whether the Ukraine’s recent political successful offensives present a window for negotiations. Last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley told reporters that Ukraine’s “fortress” position creates “a possibility” for a political solution.
But Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who served as NATO secretary general from 2009 to 2014, said this week during a visit to Washington that he had spoken with Biden administration officials and saw no sign that they were pressuring the Ukrainian government to to start negotiating with Russia.
“It was an idea that was just brought up, but it was immediately shut down,” Rasmussen said. “It would really weaken the Western Front if we tried to push Zelensky into premature peace negotiations, because that would be cheating.”
“Putin is not sincere when it comes to peace negotiations,” Rasmussen added.
Ukrainian officials have said the same, warning that Russia could try to pause the fighting for talks, but only to use that time to prepare for further military offensives.
Macron reaffirmed France‘s support for Ukraine and nodded to the reality that a Ukrainian population enraged by Russia’s occupation is in no mood to compromise. France “will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise that is not acceptable to them,” he said.
On Friday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure targets such as power grids were “making any kind of dialogue impossible.”
“We all want peace, but it must come through the independence of kyiv, not through its surrender,” Mr. Tajani said. “The responsibility for this situation lies solely with Russia. Now the Kremlin must give concrete signals instead of bombarding the population.”
White House officials said they were not surprised by Russia’s reaction to Biden’s comments. Few in the president’s national security team expected anything different from Putin, given Russia’s behavior in recent weeks, which has included attacks on infrastructure targets that have deprived major cities, including Kiev, of heat, electricity and water. stream.
“This brutalization of the Ukrainian people is barbaric,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told a NATO meeting in Romania on Wednesday.
Biden’s comment about speaking with Putin was not intended, the officials said, to signal a change in policy or indicate that the president was deviating from his commitment to ensure Ukraine’s leaders decide when and how to negotiate an end to the war. war.
Aides say the president continues to believe negotiations will be necessary. But they also say he doesn’t think direct talks with Putin are possible unless the “facts on the ground” change.
In his comments on Thursday, Biden was careful to show deference to Ukraine and NATO allies, saying he would speak to Putin only after consulting with them first.
In part, the message was intended as a show of support for diplomacy from their counterparts. Mr Macron has stressed the importance of maintaining dialogue with the Russian leader, if only to avoid a dangerous escalation or miscalculation. He called Putin in August and is expected to meet with him in a few days. Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, spoke with the Russian president on Friday morning.
A Kremlin reading of the call with Scholz blamed the West for the lack of talks, saying the Western approach to “pump the Kiev regime with weapons” and provide it with financial and political support “leads Kiev to reject any idea of negotiations. .”
But there are other audiences to consider as well. Some leaders are concerned about the economic impacts of a war that has driven up food and energy prices around the world. And in the United States, some progressive Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed frustration that the Biden administration, which has provided nearly $20 billion in military aid to Kiev since the Russian invasion, appears to be writing “blank checks” without describing the end of the play. the conflict.
White House officials said the president’s comment about being willing to meet Putin under certain circumstances was not directed directly at those groups. However, the comment indicates that the Biden administration has not shut down the possibility of diplomacy, despite the fact that Biden has not spoken to Putin since mid-February.
Blinken has spoken with his counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, just once since mid-January, to discuss the possible release of two Americans jailed in Russia, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. Biden also said in October that he would be willing to talk to Putin about releasing the two Americans.
Speaking a day before Biden’s comments, Rasmussen, the former NATO chief, said he did not believe Ukraine would agree to a peace deal that would allow Russia to occupy any part of its territory.
“I can pretty confidently conclude that as long as I see Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, there will be a conflict,” he said. “The only way out for Putin is to get out of Ukraine.”
Elisabetta Povoledo contributed to this reporting.