On Ukraine and Russia, Biden Flusters European Allies by Stating the Obvious

While in Berlin, Mr. Blinken conducted a flurry of diplomacy on the eve of his high-stakes meeting with his Russian counterpart, Mr. Lavrov, which could help determine whether a diplomatic solution to the crisis induced by Mr. Putin’s army can be achieved. Mr. Blinken met with Germany’s foreign minister and its new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and attended a group session with diplomats from Germany, France and Britain who gather under the moniker of the Transatlantic Quad.

He later delivered a speech at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences outlining the stakes of the Western showdown with Moscow over Ukraine, arguing that “it is a crisis with global consequences” for the international system of established borders and state sovereignty.

“Perhaps no place in the world experienced the divisions of the Cold War more than this city,” Mr. Blinken said. “It seems at times that President Putin wants to return to that era.”

But it was clear that Mr. Biden’s news conference had ruffled the alliance.

Ulrich Speck of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin said that Mr. Biden was using the kind of language allies speak to one another. “But that’s not the way you talk to the Russians, because when you talk to the press you talk to the Russians,” he said. “If the point is to reinforce allied unity, this was an unforced error.”

At the same time, he said, the allies were coming together more strongly and more quickly than in 2014, and a NATO of 30 countries and a European Union of 27 “is never perfectly united, we’re not an autocracy, there are always differences and in the open.’’

But there was considerable unity “demonstrated in the language of the alliance,” he said. Mr. Biden’s comments perhaps “should not have happened, but they won’t undermine the Western position.”

The European Union considers that its main strength is in economic sanctions, and those are an active subject of intense and secret discussions, senior European officials say. Tough sanctions will come if Russia does not respond to diplomacy, but inevitably they will be calibrated to what Russia actually does.

Source: NYT > U.S. > Politics

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