Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Ukraine peacefully continue. Following his conversation with Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden is calling Kiev today.
The White House says Biden wants to discuss building Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. There would still be more than 100,000 soldiers ready. Ukraine is also on high alert. In addition, Biden wants to update Kiev on the upcoming talks between Moscow and Washington, which should help end the conflict in Ukraine. Zelensky announced on Twitter that the goal was to agree on common positions “for peace in Ukraine and security in Europe”.
Biden was on the phone with Putin for nearly an hour Thursday. Diplomats from Russia and the United States prepare for official talks, 9-10. January in Geneva. NATO is also scheduled to meet with a Russian delegation on 12 January. The next day, there is a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
With less than two weeks left before senior US and Russian officials meet in Geneva, there is still a lot of muscle talk. President Biden told reporters on Friday that when they spoke to his Russian counterpart on the phone the day before, he had assured his Russian counterpart that the forthcoming negotiations could only be successful if Putin “de-escalates, does not escalate” in the coming days. Biden said Russia would face harsh sanctions if it invaded Ukraine.
“I made it clear to President Putin that if he takes further steps in Ukraine, we will face severe sanctions. We want to increase our presence in Europe with NATO allies, “Biden said.
Despite the strong words, the Russian leader, according to Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov, was not dissatisfied with the conversation. However, he reiterated that it would be a “colossal mistake” to impose sanctions on his country. There may be implications for negotiations on arms control, cyber security, climate change and other issues that the United States wants to discuss with Russia.
Russian commentators stress Putin’s insistence on written security guarantees. Moscow wants in black and white that Ukraine and other former Soviet republics be excluded from any future enlargement of NATO. Russia also demands that the alliance remove offensive weapons from neighboring countries. The Biden administration and NATO allies have made it clear more than once that Russia’s demands are ruled out in the current circumstances.
The United States has for weeks accused Russia of massively deploying troops in areas on the border with Ukraine. It is feared that Russian troops may invade the former Soviet republic. Moscow rejects such plans. In 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea Peninsula in Crimea. It also supports separatists loyal to the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine.
“The next two weeks will be tough,” said Daniel Fried, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland and top adviser to Eastern Europe for Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “But the toughest test has not yet come, as Putin will continue with threats and short-sightedness to see how determined we are.”
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