On Thursday, Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin will speak about Russia’s force buildup near Ukraine during their second phone discussion in recent weeks, despite little progress in resolving the simmering problem.
Even as Russia has pushed an estimated 100,000 troops into Ukraine and Putin has ramped up his demands for security assurances that prevent NATO from extending into Ukraine, the White House signaled that Biden will make it plain to Putin that a diplomatic option remained available.
Senior US and Russian officials will debate these requests during discussions in Geneva on January 10th.
According to a senior administration source who briefed reporters before the conversation, Biden would remind Putin that for the talks to make “genuine progress,” they must be held in “a atmosphere of de-escalation rather than escalation.” On the condition of anonymity, the official commented.
The call was made up on Putin’s request, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“The purpose of the talk is obvious,” Peskov told reporters, “to continue addressing the subjects that were on the agenda at the last video conference.” The focus of the discussion on December 7 was on Russian force moves, which have alarmed Ukraine and other European allies, as well as Moscow’s demand for security assurances.
Since that contact, Peskov said, Moscow has made its security suggestions to US and European authorities, and now “the necessity for another telephone discussion, which would prelude the impending negotiations” has emerged “from our point of view, from the point of view of President Putin.”
Biden and Putin, who met in Geneva in June to address a range of difficulties in the US-Russia relationship, are not anticipated to participate in the January meeting, according to the official.
The White House said Biden warned Moscow in a video conference on Dec. 7 that an invasion of Ukraine would result in sanctions and significant economic damage to Russia. The threats of sanctions have been downplayed by Russian authorities.
Russia and NATO representatives, as well as Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States, are set to meet immediately after the planned Geneva meetings.
The security documents in draft form Moscow demanded that Ukraine and other former Soviet republics be denied NATO membership and that NATO’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe be reduced.
The US and its allies have refused to give Putin the guarantees on Ukraine that he seeks, citing NATO’s concept that membership is available to any nation that meets certain criteria. However, they agreed to meet with Russia to discuss its concerns.
As Biden prepared for his meeting with Putin, the administration attempted to emphasize the administration’s commitment to Ukraine and to emphasize that in developing policy that impacts European partners, Washington adheres to the “concept of nothing about you without you.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Blinken “reiterated the United States’ unflinching support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders,” according to State Department spokeswoman Ned Price.
After the president speaks with Putin, Biden and administration officials intend to engage with European allies to give them an update on the meeting.
Putin stated earlier this week that if the West fails to accept his demands for security assurances that prevent NATO’s expansion into Ukraine, he would consider a variety of measures.
Biden is set to emphasize to Putin on Thursday that the US is united with its friends while also demonstrating a readiness to engage in “principled diplomacy” with Russia, according to an administration official.
Russian forces marched into Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula, in 2014 and took control of the region from Ukraine. The takeover of Crimea by Russia, one of President Barack Obama’s worst diplomatic moments, looms big as Biden attempts to control the present issue.
In public statements, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the administration is willing to discuss Moscow’s worries about NATO in conversations with Russian officials, but that Washington would not shape policy that affects European partners behind their backs.
During their talk on Thursday, the two leaders are likely to discuss attempts to persuade Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, which the Trump administration effectively rejected.
Despite their differences on Ukraine and other matters, White House officials have stated that they believe the US and Russia can work together on the Iran nuclear problem.
Biden is anticipated to speak with Putin from his house in Wilmington, where he is spending the week in his native state of Delaware.