WASHINGTON — President Biden said Thursday that he would be “happy to sit down” with Vladimir Putin to discuss how the Russian tyrant might end his invasion of Ukraine — moments after French President Emmanuel Macron said only Ukrainian leaders could broker a “sustainable peace.”
“Look, there’s one way for this war to end, a rational way, for Putin to pull out of Ukraine, number one. But it appears he’s not going to do that,” Biden said at a White House press conference with Macron standing alongside him.
Putin is “inflicting incredible, incredible carnage on the civilian population of Ukraine — bombing nurseries, hospitals, children’s homes. It’s sick what he’s doing,” Biden said.
“Mr. Putin is — let me choose my words very carefully. I’m prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he’s looking for a way to end the war. He hasn’t done that yet,” Biden went on.
“If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and my NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he wants — has in mind. He hasn’t done any of that. In the meantime, I think it’s absolutely critical, what Emmanuel said: We must support the Ukrainian people.”
Moments earlier, Macron said only Ukraine could negotiate with Moscow.
“We will never urge the Ukrainians to make a compromise that will not be acceptable for them — because they are so brave and they defend precisely their lives, their nation and our principles and because it will never built a sustainable peace,” the French leader said.
“If we want a sustainable peace, we have to respect the Ukrainians to decide the moments and the conditions in which they will negotiate about their territory and their future,” Macron said.
Biden previously said he was willing to speak with Putin about the possible release of jailed basketball player Brittney Griner, but not to discuss Ukraine.
“If [Putin] came to me at the G-20 and said I want to talk about the release of Griner, I’d meet with him. I mean, it would depend,” Biden said Oct. 11 in a CNN interview. “I’m not about to, nor is anyone else prepared to, negotiate with Russia about them staying in Ukraine, keeping any part of Ukraine.”
Putin in October signed legislation purporting to annex four partially occupied regions of Ukraine, but Russian troops have suffered a series of humiliating battlefield defeats, forcing them to withdraw last month from the major city of Kherson in southern Ukraine — after failing in the early days of the war to take the capital Kyiv.
“The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said Thursday.
However, in January, Biden reportedly feared a quick Russian victory and allegedly warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that there was a looming Russian “sack” of Kyiv. Biden even reportedly offered the Ukrainian leader a flight to safety in February when the invasion began.
“The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelensky allegedly replied.
Biden said Thursday that he’s confident that Ukraine’s pro-Western government, which has been heavily armed by the US and other NATO countries, would be able to continue its resistance.
“Imagine them trying to occupy that country for the next two, five, 10, 20 years — if they could, if they could. [Putin] has miscalculated every single thing he initially calculated. He thought he would be greeted with open arms by the Russian-speaking portions of the Ukrainian population,” Biden said.
“And so the question is, what is his decision — how does he get himself out of this circumstance he’s in? I’m prepared, if he’s willing, to talk to find out what he’s willing to do. But I’ll only do it in consultation with my NATO allies. I’m not going to do it on my own.”