As the US president pursues a diplomatic approach to cope with the tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, President Joe Biden is ready to warn Vladimir Putin via video chat on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, it would suffer crippling penalties.
According to White House sources, Biden wants to make it clear that his administration is prepared to take steps against the Kremlin that would have “a very serious impact” to the Russian economy. Putin is anticipated to press Biden for assurances that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long desired membership. For the Americans and their NATO partners, that’s a no-go.
In advance of the meeting, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated, “We’ve engaged extensively with our friends and believe we have a route forward that will impose considerable and severe impact on the Russian economy.” “I suppose you could call that a threat.” That can be considered a fact. That’s what you’d call preparedness. You are free to call it whatever you wish.”
The face-to-face meeting — Biden from the Situation Room, Putin from Moscow — is considered to be one of the most difficult of Biden’s administration, and it will take place at a critical juncture. Russian intelligence officers have gathered 70,000 troops along the Ukraine border and are preparing for an assault early next year, according to US intelligence officials.
The US has yet to establish if Putin has made up his mind about invading. According to a senior administration source who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, Biden aims to make it plain to Russian President Vladimir Putin that military action will come at a “very substantial cost.”
When Russian soldiers marched into the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and took the land from Ukraine in 2014, Biden was vice president. As Biden considers the present simmering problem, aides believe the Crimea experience weighs big. The Crimea affair was one of former President Barack Obama’s darkest moments on the world arena, according to aides.
NATO’s eastward expansion has been a source of controversy in both Moscow and Washington since its inception. When President Bill Clinton’s national security team disputed the timing of membership invitations to former Soviet allies Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1996, Defense Secretary William Perry advocated for delaying the invitations in order to maintain good ties with Russia. Perry stated in his memoir that he pondered retiring after losing the internal argument.
In 1997, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were formally invited, and in 1999, they accepted. Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania followed in 2004. Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia have all joined NATO since then, increasing the total number of members to 30.
The NATO alliance’s core tenet is that membership is accessible to any country that meets certain criteria. No outsider has veto authority on membership. While it is unlikely that Ukraine would join the alliance anytime soon, the US and its partners will not rule it out.
Republicans in Washington are presenting this as a critical test of Biden’s global leadership.
After President Donald Trump’s emphasis on a “America first” foreign policy, Biden promised as a contender to reclaim American leadership. Republicans, on the other hand, have slammed Biden, claiming that he has been ineffective in slowing Iran’s march toward nuclear power and that the Biden administration has done too little to counter autocratic leaders such as China’s Xi Jinping, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “Fellow authoritarians in Beijing and Tehran will be watching how the free world responds.” “And when President Biden interacts with Putin, he has an opportunity to set the tone.”
In a Newsmax interview on Monday, Trump, who has shown remarkable respect to Putin during his administration, claimed the Biden-Putin meeting would not be a “fair match,” comparing it to the six-time Super Bowl winner New England Patriots against a high school football team.
Biden talked with the presidents of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy on Monday to discuss message and potential penalties ahead of Putin’s call.
The presidents called on Russia to “de-escalate tensions” and agreed that diplomacy “is the only path ahead to settle the problem,” according to the White House.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday ahead of the Biden-Putin showdown.
Zelenskyy and Blinken “agreed to continue cooperative & coordinated action,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter, thanking the US and allies for their “continuing support of our sovereignty & territorial integrity.” Later this week, Biden is slated to meet with Zelenskyy.
Blinken “reiterated the United States’ unshakable support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Putin has made it obvious that he intends to ask Biden for contractual guarantees that NATO will not expand into Ukraine. No such assurance is likely, according to Biden and advisers, and the president himself has stated that he “won’t accept anyone’s red line.”
“NATO member countries, not Russia, decide who is a member of NATO,” Psaki said. And that is how the process has always worked and will continue to work.”
Putin, on the other hand, views this as an opportunity to rebalance the power dynamic in the US-Russia relationship.
“It’s about basic foundations for ties between Russia and the West that were set 30 years ago,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, a renowned Moscow-based foreign policy analyst. “Russia asks that these principles be revised, but the West claims that there is no basis for doing so.” As a result, it’s hard to reach an agreement on the spot.”
Aside from Ukraine, there are a slew of other problematic problems to consider, such as cyberattacks and human rights. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, said ties between the US and Russia are in “a fairly catastrophic position.”
Both the White House and the Kremlin tried to reduce expectations for the call ahead of time. Both parties stated that they do not expect any breakthroughs on Ukraine or the other topics on the table, but that the talk will constitute progress in and of itself.