Following the early Tuesday withdrawal of some Russian tank and troop units near the border with Ukraine, Putin has said "Russia is ready to discuss confidence-building measures with the US and NATO," according to the AP. The Pentagon and NATO are currently seeking to verify the reported Russian troop reductions, which it seems Putin is confirming as a good faith measure to further a diplomatic way forward, averting war.
In a press conference after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz which was described as "frank" and "businesslike" - Putin said that "of course" Russia does not want war. Standing by Putin's side during the presser, Scholz said that "lasting security" in Europe is only possible "with Russia" and that diplomatic avenues are "far from exhausted". German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock followed by saying that Moscow's troop withdrawal announcement "must be followed by action."
Putin said additionally that Russia stands "ready to work further" with the West on European security to de-escalate tensions. "We are ready to work further together. We are ready to go down the negotiations track," the Russian president said. He called Germany "one of Russia's most important partners" and said he's committed to working with Berlin, also at a moment the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline is poised to come online.
Scholz agreed that "It is our absolute duty as heads of government that Europe does not see a deescalation into war." The two countries remain close trade partners, with Germany being Russia's second largest after China. He also made indirect reference to Nord Stream 2 and its Western critics who say it's all about punishing Kiev, saying "we have committed to ensuring that gas transit works via Ukraine."
When asked by a reporter on the possibility of a new war in Europe, Putin responded as follows:
The Russian president then referred to Scholz's earlier comment that "people of this generation find it hard to imagine war in Europe."
"That is exactly why we have made our proposals, to start a process of discussion over equal security for everybody.
On NATO, Putin said that "countries have the right to join military alliances as our colleagues in NATO always maintain, but it is also important to maintain one's security not at the cost of the security of other countries."
The famous long table was back, which has lately been subject of endless memes...
During the press conference, Scholz referenced the Russian troop draw down as a positive signal:
"For Europeans, it is clear that lasting security cannot be achieved against Russia but only with Russia," he told reporters.
The chancellor added the the "inviolability of borders ... is not to be negotiated," referring to Ukraine.
"Dialogue can not end in a cul de sac, that would be a disaster for everyone," he added, "it is important to go the road of diplomacy so as to avoid war in Europe."
Meanwhile, the Kremlin in separate statements responded to Monday's avalanche of headlines predicting a Russian invasion would take place Wednesday, Feb.16.
The unusually specific timeframe given for this worst case dire scenario resulted in some degree of panic both in global markets, and among the Ukrainian population, not to mention Western media correspondents.
Source close to Zelensky told me the U.S. first warned his team of a Russian invasion last fall, putting the chances at 80%. The Ukrainians didn't buy it, but they saw an opportunity -- "more aid, more attention" -- and played along. Now they have regrets. Too much attention.— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 14, 2022
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "You know, it's hard to understand [this news], but [Putin] even jokes about it sometimes: he asks to find out if someone has published the exact time, the exact hour when the war will start."