MOSCOW — Even with Russian warships massing off Ukraine’s Black Sea coast and the United States warning that Russian ground forces are poised to strike from multiple directions, Russia’s top diplomat said on Monday that the possibility for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis was “far from exhausted.”
Speaking in what appeared to be a carefully scripted televised meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said that he supported continuing negotiations with the West on the “security guarantees” Russia has been demanding of the United States and NATO.
“I believe that our possibilities are far from exhausted,” Mr. Lavrov said, referring to Russia’s negotiations with the West. “I would propose continuing and intensifying them.”
Mr. Putin responded simply: “Good.”
The televised meeting was a signal that Russia might continue using the threat of an invasion of Ukraine to try to squeeze diplomatic concessions from the West, rather than resorting to immediate military action.
Moscow has demanded that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and has also called for a rollback of NATO forces from across Eastern Europe.
The U.S. and NATO formally rejected those demands, but they proposed several areas — including nuclear arms control and limits on military exercises — where they were willing to negotiate.
But the Kremlin has yet to respond, leaving a vast chasm that diplomacy has so far failed to bridge.
Mr. Putin asked Mr. Lavrov whether he had prepared a draft response to the proposals that the United States and NATO submitted last month. Mr. Lavrov said he had indeed prepared a 10-page response, offering no details. An aide to Mr. Putin said on Saturday that Russia would soon make its response public.
Mr. Putin told his diplomats in November that it was good that “tensions” were high with the West and that it was “important for them to remain in this state for as long as possible.”
He also held a meeting with his defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, who described Russia’s wide-ranging military exercises, and said that some were now ending or would end soon.
Mr. Putin’s comments come as Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany arrived in Kyiv on Monday as part of an increasingly urgent diplomatic effort to avert a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Western officials have expressed fears that the window for a diplomatic solution may be closing after a phone call between President Biden and Mr. Putin over the weekend resulted in “no fundamental change in the dynamic that has unfolded now for several weeks,” according to the White House.
As the Biden administration warns that a Russian invasion could be imminent, publicly available satellite imagery has documented a huge Russian military buildup around Ukraine, including naval vessels armed with missiles, and infantry, tank and airborne regiments capable of striking from multiple directions.
The United States has “good sources of intelligence” that indicate “that things are sort of building now to some kind of crescendo opportunity for Mr. Putin,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said on Sunday.
While Russia has repeatedly said it has no plans to launch an attack, it has continued to add to the arsenal threatening its neighbor.
Even as the Ukrainian government has sought to maintain calm, the country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Moscow needed to explain its actions and “fulfill its commitment to military transparency in order to de-escalate tensions and enhance security for all.”
After meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on Monday, Mr. Scholz is scheduled to travel to Moscow to meet with Mr. Putin on Tuesday. He would become the latest Western leader to attempt shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Kyiv, with previous efforts bearing little fruit — and there is scant expectation that Mr. Scholz, who until recently had failed to take a strong stand in the crisis, would fare any better.
But the continued drumbeat of high-level diplomatic meetings left hopes of pulling back from the brink of a war that nearly all observers agree would be catastrophic.