BERLIN (Reuters) -There are “important indications” that a Russian attack on Ukraine can be avoided through diplomacy given the Kremlin’s apparent interest in negotiations on its security demands, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday.
With the United States warning of an imminent invasion, Scholz told the Munich Security Conference any attack would be a “serious mistake” with high “political, economic and geostrategic costs”.
Russia denies planning an invasion. But there is “no justification” for the build-up of more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders, Scholz said, dismissing President Vladimir Putin’s claims of genocide in east Ukraine’s breakaway regions as “ridiculous”.
Still, Russia had signalled both in his chat with Putin in Moscow earlier this week and in its response to Washington’s security proposals that it still wanted to negotiate, Scholz said. Meanwhile the West was ready to negotiate over Russia’s security demands “without being naive”.
“We will differentiate clearly between untenable demands and legitimate security interests,” he said.
Putin has clearly been dabbling lately in Russian history, Scholz said, pointing to his published texts lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of “historical Russia” as well as their talks this week.
But the past can not be used to justify a redrawing of European borders which would undermine peace on the continent, the German leader said.
“If you go back far enough in the history books you can find grounds for wars that last a few hundred years and destroy our entire continent,” Scholz said. “Peace can only be preserved in Europe if borders are no longer shifted around.”
Scholz told the conference a multipolar world was clearly emerging as new powers arose. But that should not mean countries claiming spheres of influence for themselves, he said.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Sarah Marsh in Berlin; Editing by Mike Harrison)