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Ukraine, NATO Diplomatic Contacts Continue, No New Announcements

Dec. 9, 2021 (EIRNS)—White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this afternoon appeared to dial back expectations of an announcement tomorrow on the question of talks between Russia, the U.S., and key NATO allies on “Russian concerns” as regards Ukraine, which President Joe Biden had said he hoped could be announced by then.

Asked twice in the press briefing for any update on this, Psaki replied that she thought President Biden “was referring to ... a range of discussions and engagements that we’re continuing to have today,” citing, as an example, President Biden’s call with the Presidents of the “Bucharest Nine” (B9) countries on NATO’s eastern flank. “While I have nothing to preview at this point” on any meeting, she went on, “the two Presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and we expect that to continue as well.” Biden’s remarks were “not meant to be an indication of a deal cut, concessions made, any formal format, or anything along those lines—more about the commitment to ongoing engagement.” Later asked directly if “we should not expect some kind of announcement tomorrow,” her answer was: “Not one that I have to predict at this time.”

Note that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told journalists today that Moscow knows “nothing about any such meeting.” He did say that he is proceeding “from the assumption that the formats for further talks on the ‘red lines’ our leadership was talking about for the past few days, and also maximally reliable legally binding security guarantees for Russia, are subject to further discussion.”

Otherwise, President Biden spoke by telephone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reportedly for 76 minutes, this afternoon, and after that, for 40 minutes, with the B9 Presidents—Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Both calls, Psaki said, included a briefing from Biden on his Dec. 7 discussion with President Vladimir Putin.

The short White House readouts on those two calls break no new ground. In his call with Zelensky, Biden “voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s aggressive actions towards Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further military intervention,” i.e., as has been made clear in recent days, NATO will not intervene militarily directly on Ukraine’s behalf. Biden assured Zelenskyy that the policy is “no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine,” and “underscored the readiness of the United States” to support confidence-building measures to advance implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

As for the “B9,” Biden was reported to have “underscored” the U.S.’s “sacred commitment” to NATO’s Article 5 (an attack on one member is an attack on all), discussed NATO’s resoluteness in the face of Russia’s military build-up inside Russia on its Ukrainian border, and promised “close consultation and coordination ... as we work towards de-escalation of the current crisis through deterrence, defense, and dialogue.”

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