WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENTS. The phone call between Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Joe Biden on Thursday evening did not go well for the Ukrainians. The leader of Kiev would have asked the American president to put his cards on the table and show him what the belief in an “imminent attack” was based on, the terminology Washington has been using for a few days to refer to movements on the Ukrainian border. The White House limited itself to repeating the compactness of the Western Front, and National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne later denied the Ukrainian reconstructions: “These are fantasies”.
Yesterday, however, Zelensky first said that “there is no misunderstanding with the US,” then spoke to foreign reporters, who confirmed a variety of views, and urged the United States to tone down the message given “continued talk of an impending… invasion us panics the country and its economy”. The Russian threat is there, he conceded, but no more serious than it was in the spring of 2021, when Moscow first stationed troops near the border.
In addition to anxious language, Zelensky in Washington blames two things: First, the sudden and unmotivated withdrawal of unnecessary staff from the Kiev embassy. And to strengthen his position, he cited the example of Greece, which has a consulate in Mariupol, as the line of a possible front. The second reason for friction is sanctions. Designed in this way, they are a protection for the EU; in order to induce the Russians to desist from war purposes, they should be imposed at once. Hypothesis blinking rejected.
For the first time since the Afghan crisis, Washington allowed the leaders of the jointly deployed armed forces to respond to the Ukrainian President at a press conference. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said that “conflict is not inevitable” and “there is room for diplomacy,” so he outlined a more complex and dangerous scenario. First of all, the Russians have increased their presence at the borders in the last 24 hours. The arsenal deployed by the Russians is vast and diverse. Chief of Staff Mark Milley highlighted the logistical possibilities of hybrid warfare, as well as the use of navy, air force and infantry on the borders. For Austin, “Putin has a wide range of options” to choose from to launch any type of attack.
There’s one point they’re looking at in the Pentagon: it’s the Dnieper River dividing the country. If it freezes, it will be easier for armored vehicles to advance to Kiev. It was the worst-case scenario, a “massive invasion that would open up frightening scenarios.” And according to the Pentagon, Russian military equipment would allow such an operation, which would have “dramatic consequences for the civilian population”. In fact, Milley emphasized that the stakes, in terms of volume and targets, are “very different from what America has seen in recent memory.”
Washington will continue to strengthen Ukraine’s defenses by supplying anti-tank missiles, weapons and ammunition, and coordinating with NATO. A third freighter arrived in Kiev in the evening. And President Biden said late yesterday afternoon before returning to Washington from Pittsburgh that “he will soon be sending US troops to Eastern Europe.” 8,500 soldiers are on alert in bases on American soil. They will therefore soon be used on the Old Continent
Meanwhile, diplomacy is scrambling to revive the Minsk-Donbass accords after the Normandy Format meeting in Paris on Wednesday. Macron heard Putin reaffirm his commitment to defending “the sovereignty of neighboring countries.” But in the Minsk trial, the two found an understanding. Biden had said the same thing in the recent phone call with Zelenskyj. An agreement in Donbass is a necessary part of de-escalation and neutralization of the pro-Russian separatists.