Biden, Putin set to speak as tensions rise over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Victory Day military parade marking the 74th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will speak by phone Thursday afternoon with Russian President Vladimir Putin as tensions rise over a significant military build-up on the Ukrainian border.

The call, the second known discussion between the two leaders this month, was scheduled at Putin’s request. The Russian leader has previously insisted that despite a massive deployment of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border, Moscow is not preparing for an invasion of its former Soviet neighbor.

But Putin laid down conditions for non-aggression: he promised that Russian troops would not attack Ukraine if Kiev’s current candidacy to join NATO was refused. Russia has described NATO’s eastward expansion as a “red line” that threatens Moscow’s security.

Since 2002, Ukraine has sought to enter the most powerful military alliance in the world, where the clause in Article 5 of the group states that an attack on a member country is considered an attack on all.

In their call earlier this month, Biden did not accept Putin’s “red line” and instead warned that Washington and its European allies were prepared to impose a web of economic and political countermeasures if the borders rulers of Ukraine were violated.

US President Joe Biden chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually amid Western fears Moscow is considering attacking Ukraine, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens with other officials on a call secure video from the White House situation room in Washington, United States, December 7, 2021.

The White House via Reuters

“We are prepared for diplomacy and a diplomatic route, but we are also ready to react if Russia advances with a new invasion of Ukraine,” said a senior official in the Biden administration, who requested the anonymity in order to share details to come. of the call, said Wednesday.

“We have coordinated with our allies to impose severe sanctions on the Russian economy and financial system well beyond what was implemented in 2014,” the official said, referring to the invasion of Russia. Crimea by Moscow in 2014.

For months, Ukraine warned the United States and its European allies that thousands of Russian troops were massing along its eastern border. The build-up spoke of the nuances of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked an international outcry and triggered a series of sanctions against Moscow.

Simon Miles, an assistant professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, called Biden and Putin’s talks productive, but that a solution should involve the Ukrainian government.

“Today’s phone call between Presidents Biden and Putin comes at a critical time in European security. Russian troops are on the border with Ukraine in significant numbers and in a configuration which rightly worries analysts about offensive military action, ”wrote Miles, an expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union. .

“But one thing is clear: this is a crisis caused by the Kremlin,” said Miles, adding that “the end of Putin’s game remains uncertain”.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s foreign minister told CNBC that Russia is in a position to invade quickly if Putin decides to carry out such an operation.

“Putin has not yet decided whether or not to conduct a military operation,” Dmytro Kuleba told CNBC. “But if he decides to do it, things will be done in the blink of an eye.”

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Christi C. Elwood