WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said he would talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine if the Russian leader is serious about ending his invasion, after previously saying only Ukraine’s leaders can decide when to hold peace talks.
“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,” Biden said Thursday in a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
“He hasn’t done that yet,” Biden said. “If that’s the case, in consultation with my French and NATO friends, I’ll be happy to sit down with Putin to see what he has in mind.”
Biden has previously said that he would not discuss the war in Ukraine with Putin unless Ukraine’s leaders are also involved in the conversation. Though he didn’t repeat that line during the news conference, Biden’s position hasn’t changed, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said.
Continued Russian bombing has battered Ukraine’s electrical grid and critical infrastructure, in what Western officials have said is a move by Moscow to gain an advantage with winter approaching.
The Russians have shown no indications they are going to stop or slow military operations, which U.S. officials believe will continue through the winter months, John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said Wednesday.
Ukrainian officials have called for more air-defense systems, including U.S.-made Patriot missiles.
Macron said at the news conference that only Ukraine can decide when the conditions have been met to start negotiating a peace settlement with Russia.
“We will never urge Ukrainians to make a compromise that is not acceptable to them,” he said after meeting with Biden as part of a state visit. “We have to let Ukrainians decide the moment and the conditions that they will negotiate.”