Russia’s top diplomat advised President Vladimir Putin on Monday to keep talking with the West on Moscow’s security demands, a signal from the Kremlin that it intends to continue diplomatic efforts amid U.S. warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow wants guarantees from the West that NATO won’t allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join as members, and that the alliance will halt weapons deployments to Ukraine and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe, the demands flatly rejected by the West.
Speaking at a meeting with Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued that Moscow should hold more talks with the U.S. and its allies despite their refusal to consider the main Russian demands.
The talks “can’t go on indefinitely, but I would suggest to continue and expand them at this stage,” Lavrov said, noting that Washington has offered to conduct dialogue on limits for missile deployments in Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence-building measures.
Asked by Putin if it made sense to continue diplomatic efforts, Lavrov responded that possibilities for talks “are far from being exhausted,” and he proposed to continue the negotiations.
Putin noted the West could try to draw Russia into “endless talks” without conclusive results and questioned whether there is still a chance to reach agreement on Moscow’s key demands.
“There’s always a chance,” Lavrov replied, adding that his ministry wouldn’t allow the U.S. and its allies to stonewall Russia’s main requests.
Moscow denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine but has massed well over 130,000 troops near its borders and, in the U.S. view, has built up enough firepower to launch an attack on short notice.
The meeting came as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Ukraine and plans to continue on to Moscow for talks with Putin in a last-ditch diplomatic effort.
“We are experiencing a very, very serious threat to peace in Europe,” Scholz tweeted from Kyiv, adding that Germany wanted to see “signals of de-escalation” from Moscow.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Europe is “on the edge of a precipice,” adding that “there is still time for President Putin to step back.”