On Thursday, the president will talk on the phone with Vladimir Putin.
President Joe Biden will have a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday, a senior U.S. administration official said, adding that the president is seeking to find a diplomatic way to reduce tensions on the border between Russia and Ukraine.
“We are ready for diplomacy and a diplomatic way forward,” the source said. “But we are also ready to react if Russia invades Ukraine further.”
The telephone conversation, organized at Putin’s request, will take place on the eve of the talks in Geneva scheduled for January 10. According to a source in the administration, it is expected that none of the presidents will participate in these negotiations.
The two leaders will talk by phone for the second time in a month: in early December, they discussed the situation on the Russian side of the border with Ukraine, where, according to intelligence estimates based on satellite images, there were about 70,000 Russian servicemen at that time. US intelligence analysts predict that Putin plans to pull up to 175,000 troops into the area.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said: “Biden is doing the right thing by accepting Putin’s request for a telephone conversation. If Putin has made such a request, it means that he has something to say. But Biden also needs to get his message across. First, Biden should make it clear that serious negotiations on European security should include a much broader agenda than Putin proposed, including security threats from Russia, such as the annexation of Crimea, recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as Russian forces occupying territories in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.”
“Secondly, Biden should make it clear to Putin that in any discussion of the security and sovereignty of Ukraine, Ukrainians should be present at the negotiating table. Maybe Europe needs the Helsinki 2.0 format, but Europe doesn’t need the Yalta 2.0 format,” McFaul continued.
The United States has repeatedly assured Ukraine of its support and provided tens of millions of dollars in security assistance to this country. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. As reported in Blinken’s statement, he “confirmed that the United States is unwavering in its support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in the face of the build-up of Russian military power on the borders of Ukraine.”
The White House has repeatedly stated that Russia’s invasion will entail “serious consequences,” including tough economic sanctions and increased support for Ukraine’s security.
On Wednesday, Zelensky tweeted: “I received assurances of full support for [Ukraine] on the part of the United States in countering Russian aggression.” He used emoji with flags to represent countries.
According to Department of State spokesman Ned Price, Blinken also spoke with the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France and Germany about “coordination in order to deter any further aggression by Russia against Ukraine.”
The foreign ministers of Western countries “confirmed the existence of a consensus among allies and partners regarding ensuring serious consequences for Russia in response to such actions,” Price said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that a telephone conversation between Putin and Biden was scheduled for Thursday.
A representative of the National Security Council told that the United States relies on its alliances in the region to reach a diplomatic solution.
“We, as an alliance, adhere to a single position on the issue of the consequences that Russia will face if it starts acting against Ukraine,” the source said. – But we are also united in our readiness to conduct principled diplomatic cooperation with Russia… We will adhere to the principle of “saying nothing about our allies and partners without our allies and partners, including Ukraine.”
Administration officials refused to publicly respond to Moscow’s demands, including the refusal to accept Ukraine into NATO and the reduction of the alliance’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe.
On Wednesday, a senior administration official said: “We believe that we can make the most progress at the negotiating table, sitting across from each other behind closed doors and maintaining constant consultations with our allies and partners. So at the moment we have no plans to publish a document or draft agreement, as the Russian side did.”
Meanwhile, some analysts doubt that Putin’s actions will actually lead to an invasion. Taras Kuzyo, a professor at Kiev National University– is one of several analysts who believe that an invasion would be costly, lengthy and bloody, and therefore it is unlikely.
“If Putin tries to crush Ukraine by military force, he may eventually lose the country forever, as well as provoke anti–government unrest inside Russia, which may threaten the survival of his entire regime,” the expert writes. “For a person who has already experienced the collapse of one empire, this may be a risk that he is not ready to take,” he added.