Late Sunday evening, the White House, via Press Secretary Jen Psaki, announced that a “summit” between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden had been agreed to in “principle.” That followed the same claim being made by French President Emmanual Marcon, who is currently at the Munich Security Conference. The framing was of Biden accepting an invitation, making it seem as if Putin had asked for the sitdown.
This per The Hill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday evening said Biden “accepted in principle” a meeting with Putin “if an invasion hasn’t happened.” She said the meeting would take place after Blinken and Lavrov’s meeting.
Psaki stressed that the U.S. is “always ready for diplomacy,” while “also ready to swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war.”
Unfortunately, this appears to be another case of the administration getting out over its skis without exercising any forethought. Just hours later, the Russians poured cold water on the idea, noting that nothing has been agreed to. Further, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov laid out the odd condition of needing to know how any possible meeting would end.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that while Biden and Putin can schedule a phone call or meeting at any time, there were no definite plans for a summit, according to Reuters.
Peskov’s comments came the day after Macron announced in a statement that Biden and Putin “accepted the principle” of a summit discussing “security and strategic stability in Europe,” as tensions grow amid reports of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Putin demands to know how meeting with Biden will end (what the outcome will be) before agreeing to it: Lavrov.
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) February 21, 2022
As with much of what the White House has said over the last month, I’m left wondering exactly what the strategy is here. Why announce that Biden has agreed to a summit if the Russians themselves haven’t agreed to a summit? Typically, you’d want the US president to always appear in control, but this sends the opposite message, once again placing the Russians in the position of dictating terms. For his part, Putin was more than happy to seize on this moment to embarrass Biden.
This latest episode is just a continuation of the inane moves the White House has been making for the last month. We are to the point where the administration seems to care more about getting credit for “calling” a Russian invasion occurring than actually stopping the Russian invasion. Instead of having a tactically sound messaging strategy, the White House continues to just spew out information with no care at all for whether it makes matters better or worse.
I suppose the thinking with preemptively giving credence to a summit was to try to stall the Russians another week or so, but it’s clear that Putin is not making his decisions based on anything the Western powers are saying. In fact, a report yesterday from NBC News claims the order to invade has already been given.
US official and another person with knowledge of the matter tell @NBCNews recent intelligence shows Russian military officials have been given an order to go ahead with an invasion. @JoshNBCNews @ckubeNBC
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) February 20, 2022
If that’s true, and that’s a big if, it comes across as extraordinarily weak for the administration to be talking about a summit. After all, we’ve seen how well past meetings between Biden and Putin have gone for NATO and the United States. It smacks of desperation, and this isn’t the time to appear desperate. The Russians are not going to back down without extracting concessions, and the more the White House flails, the more likely that those concessions will be highly damaging.
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