Russian President Vladimir Putin and his trusty foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, on Monday signaled that there would be no imminent military strike on Ukraine and that they were prepared to continue diplomatic dialogue with the West, led by the United States.
Coming after the U.S. warned that a major invasion could begin as soon as Wednesday, the geopolitical dance moves were so exquisitely choreographed that a meeting between Putin and Lavrov might have been better held on stage at the Bolshoi Theater, rather than around a huge rectangular conference table at the Kremlin.
“Sergey Viktorovich,” Putin formally addressed Lavrov in a publicly released video clip of their encounter. “In your opinion, is there a chance,” he asked, giving a dramatic shrug of his shoulders, “to agree, to reach an agreement with our partners on key issues that cause our concern, or is it just an attempt to drag us into an endless negotiation process that has no logical conclusion?”
“Vladimir Vladimirovich,” Lavrov replied. “You have already said more than once — you, and other representatives of the Russian Federation — that we warn against endless discussions on issues that need to be resolved today.”
“But still,” Lavrov said, coming to his punchline, “I must say that there is always a chance.”
Citing the planned visit to Moscow on Tuesday by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and an array of other meetings, Lavrov added: “It seems to me that our possibilities are far from being exhausted. Of course, they should not continue indefinitely, but at this stage I would suggest that they be continued and increased.”
“OK,” Putin said, and quickly moved on to ask if Lavrov had prepared a written reply to the responses by NATO and the U.S. to Russia’s demands in December for new security guarantees. Lavrov said that indeed, a 10-page answer was ready to go.
Neither Putin nor Lavrov stand to win any acting awards — they have been playing their respective roles far too long to deliver much creativity or inspiration. But the global audience breathed a hefty sigh of relief nonetheless — particularly given the U.S. having warned ominously on Friday of cyberattacks, a ground invasion and missile strikes.
But there was further assurance from a separate meeting between Putin and his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who reported that some of the Russian military exercises that had raised alarm in the West had already drawn to a close. [Continue reading…]