U.S., Europe intensify diplomatic efforts to defuse Russian aggression toward Ukraine

It was a day for diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis, from Washington to Moscow and beyond. All this as 100,000 Russian troops mass on the border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron met for talks as President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tried to present a united front. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was a day for diplomacy on the Ukraine crisis, from Washington to Moscow and beyond, all this as more than 100,000 troops mass along the border with Ukraine.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin breaks Dow this busy day.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I'm delighted to have the chancellor here today.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Across nearly 5,000 miles from the White House to the Kremlin, a day of diplomacy. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressed hope that war could be averted.

    Putin called the talks useful.

  • Vladimir Putin, Russian President (through translator):

    Some of his ideas and proposals, about which I think are too early to speak, but I think these ideas could form a basis for our further joint steps.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And new German chancellor met with President Biden and tried to present a united front.

  • President Joe Biden:

    He has the complete trust of the United States. Germany is one of our most important allies in the world. There is no doubt about Germany's partnership with the United States, none.

  • Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor (through translator):

    It is important that we act together, that we stand together, and that we do what is necessary together.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But the unity rhetoric doesn't match the whole reality. Germany prevents fellow NATO members from sending German ammunition to Ukraine. And Germany refuses to publicly threaten the German-Russian pipeline Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine.

    Germany has indefinitely paused the certification process. The White House wants to use that pause as leverage over Russia. Today, Biden was clear. And Scholz switched to English to try and back him up.

  • President Joe Biden:

    The notion that Nord Stream 2 would go forward with an invasion by the Russians is just not going to happen.

  • Olaf Scholz:

    We will be united. We will act together. And we will take all the necessary steps, and all the necessary steps will be done by all of us together.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. and much of NATO are trying to take military steps to reinforce the alliance. Today, American soldiers usually based in the U.S. landed in Poland to bolster 1,000 NATO troops already deployed there.

    European countries are also reinforcing NATO's eastern flank with European jets and European soldiers, all an attempt to deter any war in Ukraine from expanding into NATO. But the Russians continue to expand their military footprint on NATO and Ukraine's borders. The Ministry of Defense released this video nearly every day of troops practicing the tactics they could use if they invaded Ukraine.

    U.S. officials tell "PBS NewsHour" Russia now has nearly three-quarters of what they would need for a full invasion. And U.S. officials say if Russian solders soldiers did invade, they could inflict catastrophic casualties, including 50,000 civilians, and cause millions to flee.

    The U.S. also fears that Russian soldiers could capture Kyiv and overthrow the government in a matter of days.

  • President Joe Biden:

    He is in a position now to be able to invade almost assuming that the ground is frozen above Kyiv. He has the capacity to do that.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And Biden also urged Americans to leave Kyiv.

  • President Joe Biden:

    I think it would be wise to leave the country, not — I don't mean our — I don't mean — I'm not talking about our diplomatic corps. I'm talking about Americans who are there. I hate to see them get caught in a crossfire.

    Nick Schifrin But nothing is containing Russia's military buildup, even as diplomacy continues. President Macron heads to Kyiv tomorrow.

    For the "NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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