KYIV – High-level discussions between the United and States and Russia are off the table until Moscow demonstrates a willingness to meet based on de-escalation, the White House said on February 22.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a daily briefing that Secretary of State Antony Blinken won’t meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, as was scheduled for February 24.
They were supposed to meet to diffuse the security situation in Europe and Ukraine where Russia has deployed nearly 200,000 troops and heavy weaponry in and around the country.
“Diplomacy can’t succeed unless Russia changes course,” Ms. Psaki said while adding that, at “this point in time, it wouldn’t be appropriate for him [Mr. Blinken] to have a meeting with his counterpart.… And it was always intended that any engagement with [Russian] President Vladimir Putin would follow that.”
The U.S. earlier had stipulated that talks with Russia would continue in an effort to diffuse the security situation on the condition that Russia doesn’t further invade Ukraine. However, Mr. Putin formalized the occupation of territories in eastern Ukraine that Russia seized in 2014 while authorizing additional military personnel to enter his neighbor’s sovereign territory.
Asked what it would take to re-start a conversation with Russia, Ms. Psaki said, “de-escalation.”
This means “means moving troops. … It means de-escalating from what the steps they [Russia] continue to take on a daily basis appear to be,” she added.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced a “first tranche” of sanctions on February 22 in reaction to Russia’s continued aggression toward Ukraine.
Restrictive measures were imposed on two Russian banks, sovereign debt and three Russian government officials: Petr Fradkov, Vladimir Kiriyenko and Denis Bortnikov.
“Number two, it’s just the beginning,” Ms. Psaki said. “This was the beginning of an invasion; this is just the beginning of our response.”