Diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in Ukraine continue. After his conversation with Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden is calling Kiev today.
The White House has said Biden is keen to discuss building up Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. There would still be over 100,000 soldiers ready. Ukraine is also on high alert. In addition, Biden wants to inform Kiev of upcoming talks between Moscow and Washington, which should help defuse the conflict in Ukraine. Zelensky announced on Twitter that the aim was to agree on common positions “for peace in Ukraine and security in Europe”.
Biden was on the phone with Putin for almost an hour Thursday. Diplomats from Russia and the United States are preparing for official talks to be held in Geneva on January 9 and 10. NATO is also due to meet with a Russian delegation on January 12. The next day is a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
With less than two weeks until senior U.S. and Russian officials meet in Geneva, there is still plenty of heated talk. President Biden told reporters on Friday that when he spoke with his Russian counterpart on the phone the day before, he assured his Russian counterpart that the next talks could only be successful if Putin “de-escalates, not escalation “in the next few days. Biden said Russia would face stiff sanctions if it invaded Ukraine.
“I made it clear to President Putin that if he took further steps in Ukraine, we would face severe sanctions. We will increase our presence in Europe with NATO allies, ”Biden said.
Despite the strong words, the Russian leader was not unhappy with the conversation, according to Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov. He recalled that imposing sanctions against his country would be “a colossal mistake”. There could be implications for talks on arms control, cybersecurity, climate change, and other issues the United States wishes to discuss with Russia.
Russian commentators point to Putin’s insistence on written security guarantees. Moscow wants black and white that Ukraine and the other former Soviet republics be excluded from any future NATO expansion. Russia also demands that the alliance withdraw offensive weapons from neighboring countries. The Biden administration and NATO allies have made it clear on several occasions that Russia’s demands are out of the question under the current circumstances.
The United States has accused Russia for weeks of massive deployment of troops in areas bordering Ukraine. There are fears that Russian troops will invade the former Soviet Republic. Moscow denies such plans. In 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea Peninsula to Crimea. He also supports separatists loyal to the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine.
“The next two weeks are going to be difficult,” said Daniel Fried, former US ambassador to Poland and senior advisor for Eastern Europe to Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. “But the most difficult test is yet to come, as Putin will continue with threats and myopia to see how determined we are.”
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