Biden opens at the top with Putin, but the White House remains skeptical about de-escalation

Of Giuseppe Sarcina, Washington correspondent

The American president accepts “in principle” the hypothesis of a new meeting with Vladimir Putin. But “on condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine”

President Joe Biden accepts “in principle” the hypothesis of a new meeting with Vladimir Putin. But “on condition that Russia does not invade Ukraine”. The confirmation comes with a note released at 20.30 on Sunday 20 February (late night in Italy) by Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the White House. In the afternoon the American president had spoken on the phone with Emmanuel Macron, the architect of this attempt, perhaps the last, of mediation. In the same hours Biden had called an emergency meeting, almost a war cabinet, of the National Security Council. Then he had given up on returning to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, as scheduled, letting it be known that he would remain in the Oval Office. Bad sign?

In the evening it became clear that the president and his advisers were standing evaluating Macron’s proposal. For consistency they could only accept it. In the television interviews of the morning, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, summarized the moment with these words: “until the tracks of the tanks begin to move, we are ready to follow the path of diplomacy.” It will be up to Blinken himself to explore the terrain in a summit with the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, set for Thursday 24 February. At this point it seems plausible to expect the stall to continue, at least for a few more days. Putin himself would have confirmed to Macron the interest, always “in principle”, in speaking with Biden.

Americans, in fact, remain skeptical. White House and Pentagon they think the Russians will attack “this week”. In any case, also on Sunday Biden’s advisers released a series of intelligence reports to demonstrate how Putin has already decided to launch the offensive. In this “info-war”, the information war, fits the indiscretion published by the “Washington Post”: in the event of an invasion, the Kremlin would have a list of Ukrainians “to be killed or sent to detention camps” ready. . The newspaper relaunches the letter signed by the US ambassador to the UN headquarters in Geneva, Bathsheba Crocker and sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Ambassador Crocker writes that the Moscow military would target Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine; anti-corruption journalists and activists, as well as “priests, ethnic, lesbian, gay and transgender minorities”.

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