Biden and Putin to talk amid growing tensions in Ukraine



President Biden and Vladimir Putin will speak by telephone on Thursday at the request of the Russian leader in hopes of finding a diplomatic framework for the volatility surrounding Russia’s military buildup on its border with Ukraine.

The call, confirmed by the White House on Wednesday, will mark the second direct talks between leaders this month. Despite a clear warning from Biden in a December 7 video call that an invasion would face severe economic sanctions by US and NATO allies, Putin has maintained the presence of troops on the Ukrainian border.

“We are in a time of crisis and we have been in crisis for a few weeks now, given the accumulation of Russia, and it will take a high level of commitment to try to address it and find a way to de-escalation,” said a senior official. of the administration. speaking on condition of anonymity, he told reporters on Wednesday.

An estimated 100,000 Russian soldiers at the border are fueling concerns across the region about an invasion and a possible war that could jeopardize Ukraine’s security and attract a number of allies to a military conflict.

“We remain very concerned about the nature of the presence of Russian troops there and the capabilities they have,” the official said.

Biden, they added, had planned to reiterate to Putin that the withdrawal of troops is the main condition “for real progress in these talks.”

Putin, however, continues to push for security guarantees in Eastern Europe, and said earlier this week that he would consider his own options for retaliation if the West does not guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted to the EU. NATO.

Biden and other NATO members have refused to go that far, and are unlikely to say explicitly that Ukraine will ever join the long-standing transatlantic alliance under its auspices. Article V recognizes an attack on any member nation as an attack on all. While Washington continues to provide Ukraine with millions in defense aid, the administration, along with many European allies, is wary of fully guaranteeing the country’s future military defense, a reality Putin has not lost as he seeks to pressure his influence.

The administration official also said that they did not know why, in particular, Putin was requesting a second call with Biden, but that the president was eager to participate and would continue to push for a diplomatic solution while keeping in close contact with allies.

The call comes ahead of talks between officials in the United States and Russia scheduled for Jan. 10 in Geneva, a meeting that is unlikely to include Biden or Putin, the official said. At the same time, there will be meetings between NATO and Russia, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Ukraine will be present, the official said.

The United States has coordinated with the Allies to impose sanctions far beyond those imposed in 2014 by the invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and its support for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine. said the official.

Ahead of Thursday’s call, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with the President of Ukraine on Wednesday.

Blinken reiterated to President Volodymyr Zelensky “the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders,” according to the State Department spokesman. , Ned Price. They discussed the peaceful resolution of the conflict, Price said.

Moscow submitted draft security documents this month demanding that NATO deny accession to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and withdraw its military deployments to Central and Eastern Europe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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