London, Wednesday, 29 December 2021 -
The White House stated on Wednesday that President Joe Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, during "a period of crisis" on the Russia-Ukraine border, where Moscow has amassed a force build-up in recent months that has agitated the US and European allies.
During their phone discussion, the two leaders will "address a range of topics," including "upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia," according to National Security Council spokesman Emily Horne.
The main topic of discussion will almost certainly be Russia's military presence on Ukraine's eastern border, which "remains a constant cause of significant concern," according to a senior administration official.
“We would like to see, obviously, a reduction in that build-up and return of forces to their regular training areas, their long-term deployment areas. That is something we continue to communicate to the Russian side,”
On a call convened by the National Security Council, the official stated, "That is something we continue to communicate to the Russian side."
"However, our goal is to engage in diplomacy, start negotiations, and then see if we can create a situation that allows for de-escalation and progress at the negotiating table."
“We are in a moment of crisis and have been for several weeks now given the Russian build-up,” the official stated, adding: “It will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation.”
Biden and Putin will speak for the second time this month, after the American president warned his Russian counterpart three weeks ago that if Russia invaded Ukraine, the US and its European allies would apply "severe" economic sanctions and other harsh measures.
Following the Biden-Putin call, national security advisor Jake Sullivan said that, in addition to financial sanctions, the US would "give additional defence material" to Ukraine and "fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities" if Russia invaded.
Sullivan also claimed that the US will take efforts to prevent Nord Stream 2, a project that would bring cheap natural gas from Russia to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea.
The call will take place on Thursday, ahead of security discussions between US and Russian officials in Geneva in January.
Russia demanded assurances from NATO earlier this month that the organization would not expand farther east and would cease all military activities in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
A senior administration official said on Wednesday that the US has “made plans to reinforce NATO’s force posture and allied states in the event of a further invasion,” which “would destabilize the security situation in Europe and demand adjustments to NATO forces and capabilities, especially on the eastern flank.”
“We are prepared to provide Ukraine with further assistance to defend its territory and respond to a potential Russian occupation should a further invasion proceed in the coming weeks,” the official said. “And President Biden will emphasize this to President Putin.”
The White House has made it clear that Europeans will have a role at the negotiating table with Russia.
The administration, according to Horne, "continues to engage in substantial diplomacy with our European Allies and partners, consulting and coordinating on a common strategy" to the military build-up.
Biden, according to a senior administration official, “will make clear when he speaks with President Putin that we will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners on all of these matters and will proceed on the principle of nothing about them without them.”
In addition, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday to discuss the “efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price, stated.
(Reporting by: The Decision Maker - International Relations editors)