Biden, Putin hold talks as tensions rise over Ukraine crisis

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke about building Russian troops near Ukraine during their second appeal in recent weeks.

Mr Putin’s foreign adviser said Mr Biden had reaffirmed the US threat of further sanctions against Russia in the event of an escalation or invasion, to which Mr Putin responded by warning that such a move could lead to a complete breakdown of relationships.

“It would be a colossal mistake which would have serious consequences,” Yuri Ushakov said. He added that Mr. Putin had told Mr. Biden that Russia would act like the United States if offensive weapons were deployed near U.S. borders.

Ahead of the 50-minute conversation on Thursday, the White House said Mr. Biden would make it clear to Mr. Putin that a diplomatic channel remains open even as the Russians have moved around 100,000 troops to Ukraine and Mr. Putin has stepped up. its demands for security guarantees in Eastern Europe.

But Mr Biden reiterates to Mr Putin that for there to be “real progress” in the talks, they must be conducted in “a context of de-escalation rather than escalation,” says senior administration official .

The call, which was requested by Russian officials, comes as senior US and Russian officials are scheduled to hold talks on January 10 in Geneva.

Ukrainian border guards (Ukrainian Council Guards Press Office via AP)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin, who met in Geneva in June to discuss a range of tensions in US-Russian relations, are not expected to participate in the next talks.

The two leaders held a video call earlier this month in which their conversation heavily focused on the Russian troop movements that have disrupted Ukraine and other European allies.

In that Dec. 7 video call, the White House said Mr Biden warned Moscow that an invasion of Ukraine would result in sanctions and massive damage to the Russian economy. Russian officials have rejected threats of sanctions.

Representatives from Moscow and NATO are expected to meet soon after the upcoming Geneva talks, as are Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which includes the United States.

Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO refuse membership to Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR and cancel its military deployments in central Europe and eastern.

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin
Joe Biden speaks with Vladimir Putin amid tensions over Ukraine (AP)

The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantees on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any eligible country. However, they agreed to hold talks with Russia to discuss its concerns.

As Mr Biden prepared for talks with Mr Putin, the administration also sought to underscore the commitment to Ukraine and to convey that Washington is committed to the “nothing-for-you-free principle. you “in shaping the policy that affects the European allies.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “reiterated the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of the military build-up of Russia on the borders of Ukraine ”.

Mr Biden and administration officials also plan to consult with European allies after the president’s meeting with Mr Putin.

Mr Putin said earlier this week that he would assess a range of options if the West fails to meet its demand for security guarantees that prevent NATO expansion in Ukraine.

In 2014, Russian troops entered the Black Sea Peninsula in Crimea and took the territory of Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Crimea – one of President Barack Obama’s darkest times on the international stage – looms large as Biden seeks to contain the current crisis.

Christi C. Elwood