US asks China to intercede to help avoid Russian attack on Ukraine

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Washington, Jan 27 (EFE).- The US on Thursday asked China to intercede in the Ukraine crisis in a “constructive” manner to reduce tensions with Russia, arguing that the outbreak of a war would have negative effects for Beijing, as well as other nations.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price noted at a press conference that China has a close relationship with Russia, in contrast to Western countries, and he urged Beijing to take advantage of that “influence” to help avert an armed confrontation between Moscow and Kiev.

The US responded after Beijing on Thursday weighed in on the political chessboard of the Ukraine crisis with a warning that Washington should “respect (Moscow’s) legitimate concerns.”

During a telephone call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized the military “expansion” of NATO at the same time that he called for “calm” and “restraint.”

The US government responded to Beijing’s call for calm in the phone call and noted that China could exert its influence to help avert a conflict that would not serve its interests.

If there is armed conflict in Ukraine, that will not be good for China, said Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, adding that it would have a significant impact on the world economy.

One day after Washington and NATO responded in writing in separate messages to the Kremlin’s demands for security guarantees in Eastern Europe, a tense calm continued to prevail between the US and Russia.

The government of Vladimir Putin had demanded that the Atlantic Alliance halt its eastward expansion in Europe, in particular by banning Ukraine and Georgia from ever joining NATO, and also cease military cooperation with now-independent former Soviet republics and withdraw NATO troops to the positions they occupied prior to 1997.

Although the precise content of the Western response has not been publicly revealed, the US has said that NATO’s door “remains open” to new members, should they want to join the alliance.

“There are not many reasons for optimism,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the White House continues to maintain that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is “imminent,” given the more than 100,000 combat troops that Moscow has deployed along its border with the neighboring country.

And the Pentagon said that there are combat teams and infantry units among the 8,500 soldiers it has placed on “heightened alert” for their deployment to Eastern Europe if Russia does invade.

Those soldiers would be deployed on NATO’s eastern flank, although not to Ukraine itself, but Washington is assisting Kiev by sending assorted weaponry.

Specifically, President Joe Biden spoke by telephone on Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, and expressed to him once again Washington’s commitment to the territorial integrity of his country.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing that the aim of this communication, the third between the two leaders, was to ratify the US commitment not to do anything on Ukraine “without Ukraine.”

In another effort to close ranks with its allies, the White House on Thursday reported that Biden on Feb. 7 will meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In recent days, the unity between the US and the European Union has chilled given that Washington insists that a Russian invasion could happen at any time, while the EU has said that the situation should not be dramatized.

This distancing has become evident, in particular, between Washington – which considers sending weapons to Ukraine to be necessary – and Berlin, which has ruled out this option, evidently cognizant of Germany’s role in World War Two.

Psaki, however, said that all the Atlantic allies remain united in their “support (for) Ukraine.”

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