Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin speak on phone amid growing alarm over Ukraine crisis

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke on Thursday amid growing alarm over Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine, a dire crisis that has become more complicated in recent days as the Kremlin scrambles to outline its demands for security. has intensified its calls for guaranteed and tested hypersonic missiles.

Putin requested a second call between the leaders this month ahead of talks between senior US and Russian officials scheduled for January 10 in Geneva.

White House officials said the call began at 3:35 p.m. EST and ended 50 minutes later after midnight in Moscow. There was no immediate reading from either side.

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Russia has made clear that it wants a written commitment that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO and that coalition military equipment will not be deployed in former Soviet states, demands that the Biden administration clarified. that are non-starters.

The White House said before the call that Biden would tell Putin that a diplomatic path was open, even as Russians moved an estimated 100,000 troops toward Ukraine and Kremlin officials raised volumes on demands for new guarantees from the US and NATO. Have given. ,

Those demands are to be discussed during talks in Geneva, but it is unclear what Biden would be willing to offer Putin in return for easing the crisis.

Draft security document Moscow demanded that NATO deny membership of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and withdraw its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

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

Moscow’s security proposal has raised questions about whether Putin is making unrealistic demands in the hope of Western disapproval that would give him an excuse to invade.

Steven Piffer, a career Foreign Service official who served as the US ambassador to Ukraine in the Clinton administration, said the Biden administration could engage on some elements of Russia’s draft document if Moscow is serious about talks.

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Key members of NATO have made it clear that there is no appetite for an expansion of the alliance in the near future. The US and allies may also be receptive to the language in Russia’s draft document calling for establishing new advisory mechanisms such as the NATO-Russia Council and a hotline between NATO and Russia.

“The proposed ban of the draft treaty on any NATO military activity in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, or Central Asia is an overreach, but some measures to limit military exercises and activities on a reciprocal basis may be possible,” said Pifer, who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in an analysis for the Washington think tank.

Biden plans to tell Putin that for there to be “real progress” in talks they must be held “in the context of de-escalation rather than escalation,” according to a senior administration official, who told reporters before the call. Informed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The call was established at the initiative of Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

“The goal of the conversation is clear – to continue the discussion on the issues that were on the agenda during the recent talks via video conference,” Peskov told reporters. That December 7 call focused on Russian military movements that destabilized Ukraine and other European allies, as well as Moscow’s demands for security guarantees.

Peskov noted that since that call, Moscow has submitted its security proposals to US and European officials and that now “from our point of view, from President Putin’s point of view, the need for another telephone conversation has arisen, which will be the key to the upcoming talks.” Will introduce.”

See: Ukraine undergoes civil war training amid fears of Russian aggression. Pics. In

Biden and Putin are not expected to attend January talks, meeting in Geneva in June to discuss a range of tensions in US-Russia relations.

In a December 7 video call, the White House said, Biden gave notice to Moscow that an invasion of Ukraine would bring sanctions and cause huge damage to the Russian economy. Russian officials have dismissed threats of sanctions.

Last week, Russia tested Zircon hypersonic missiles, a provocative move that Peskov said was meant to help make “more concrete” Russia’s push for security guarantees. The test was the first time Zircon missiles were launched in a salvo, marking the completion of tests before the new missile entered into force with the Russian Navy next year and armamented its cruisers, frigates and submarines.

Earlier this month US intelligence determined that Russian plans were underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as early as 2022, but Putin was yet to determine whether to proceed with it.

Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council secretary Oleksey Danilov said on Thursday that his country believes there is no immediate threat of a major Russian offensive.

“Our experts say that the Russian Federation cannot just physically launch a major invasion of our territory,” Danilov said. “The time required for preparation is the duration.”

Representatives from Moscow and NATO are expected to meet in the days following the Geneva talks, as are Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including the United States.

Read also: Vladimir Putin says he drove a taxi to meet his needs after the collapse of the USSR

Russia has denied intention to launch an invasion and, in turn, accused Ukraine of planning to try to gain control of areas occupied by force by Moscow-backed rebels. Ukraine has rejected the claim.

At the same time, Putin has urged the West to move swiftly to meet its demands, warning that Moscow will receive “substantial military-technical measures” have to be taken.

As Biden prepared for talks with Putin, the administration sought to highlight its commitment to Ukraine and drive home that Washington is “nothing about you without you” in shaping policy affecting European allies. Committed to the principle of

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 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 Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.”

Past military incursions by Putin are massive.

In 2014, Russian troops marched into Crimea’s Black Sea peninsula and seized territory from Ukraine. Russia’s annexation of Crimea was one of the darkest moments for President Barack Obama on the international stage.

After Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili ordered his troops into the breakaway region of South Ossetia, President George W. US-Russia relations were badly damaged near the end of the Bush administration.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss efforts to persuade Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal during Thursday’s call, which was effectively scrapped by the Trump administration.

Despite differences over Ukraine and other issues, White House officials have said the Iran nuclear issue is an issue where they believe the US and Russia can work together.

Biden, who was spending weeks in his home state of Delaware, spoke to Putin from his home near Wilmington. The White House distributed a photo of the president talking to the Russian leader from a desk, along with family photos.

Before the call, Putin sent Biden a telegram with best wishes for the New Year and Christmas, which was posted on the Kremlin site on Thursday, along with other holiday messages to world leaders.

Putin wrote, “I am confident that during the June summit in Geneva and subsequent contacts, we can move forward in the development of our agreements and develop an effective Russian- Americans can communicate.” ,

Read also: Biden warns Putin of sanctions, military support to Ukraine over Russian invasion