Biden draws ‘two tracks’ for Ukraine crisis on appeal with Putin

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for 50 minutes on Thursday, in what a senior US official called a “serious and substantial” phone call setting the parameters for high-stakes security talks in Europe next month .

Why is this important: Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, raising fears of a large-scale invasion with devastating consequences for Europe.

  • The Biden-Putin phone call sets the stage for US-Russian security talks on January 10, followed by meetings of the Russia-NATO Council on January 12 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on January 13.
  • The talks come as Putin demanded that the United States and NATO provide legal guarantees excluding eastward expansion or military cooperation with former Soviet states, including Ukraine.

What they say : Speaking to Putin from his home in Delaware, Biden laid out “two paths” which “will really depend on Russia’s actions in the coming period,” according to a senior administration official who informed reporters. on condition of anonymity.

  • One is a “diplomatic route” leading to de-escalation, while the other was a “more deterrent-oriented route” – including massive sanctions and increased NATO activity in member states from the east if Russia invaded Ukraine, the official said.
  • “The two leaders recognized that there are likely to be areas where we could make significant progress, as well as areas where an agreement may not be possible,” the official said. “The upcoming talks will more precisely define the contours of each of these categories.”

The other side: The Kremlin said in its own reading that Putin was “happy” with the “constructive” conversation, but warned Biden that major sanctions would be a “colossal mistake” that could lead to a complete breakdown in relations.

  • “Our president stressed that in this rather difficult situation, we will behave as the United States would behave if offensive weapons were deployed near the American borders,” the Kremlin said, according to a translation.
  • The Kremlin stressed that Putin was looking for “concrete” guarantees for the security of Russia in the negotiations to come and that the success of these negotiations could lead to the normalization of the American-Russian relations.

And after: The senior Biden official said the United States will continue to consult with its European allies ahead of talks next month, stressing that no decision on Ukraine would be made without Ukraine at the table.

Christi C. Elwood