Biden and Putin to hold appeal this week as US seeks joint approach with European allies


US President Joe Biden to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 30 as bilateral tensions rise over a build-up of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine and Moscow’s demands for security guarantees radicals from Washington.

The two leaders “will discuss a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said on December 29. in a report announcing the call.

The call comes as US and Russian officials prepare to meet on January 10 in Geneva to discuss Moscow’s security demands, including ending NATO’s eastward expansion, as well as concerns American authorities concerning the massive accumulation of troops in the Kremlin near the Ukrainian border.

A senior US administration official told reporters on December 29 that the appeal was requested by Putin. This will be the second call between the two leaders this month on their divergent views on European security and the future of Ukraine.

Putin is looking for legal guarantees that NATO will not accept new member states that were once part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine and Georgia.

He also calls on NATO to withdraw all arms from Eastern Europe. The demands would set back much of the alliance’s progress in Europe since the 1990s and make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.

Putin last week called for “immediate” guarantees.

The Biden administration said some of Russia’s demands were “unacceptable” and countries had the right to choose their own foreign policy trajectory.

However, the US administration has said it is willing to engage in diplomacy with Russia and plans to use the upcoming talks to voice concerns about the Kremlin’s actions.

Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine in what the United States has said could be a prelude to an invasion, which the Kremlin denies.

The build-up sparked a wave of transatlantic diplomacy this month.

Biden spoke to leaders from across Europe, and officials in the Biden administration also consulted with NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), according to the press release.

Horne said the administration continues to consult and coordinate with European allies and partners “on a common approach” to strengthening Russia’s military.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met earlier on December 29 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the The State Department said.

Blinken reiterated Washington’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders,” spokesman Ned Price said in a press release.

Blinken and Zelenskiy “discussed efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” Price added.

Biden plans to speak to Zelenskiy shortly after the call with Putin, but no date has been set, the senior administration official told media.

At his annual press conference last week, Putin urged the West to respond to Russian demands for security guarantees “immediately”, listing a litany of grievances over Ukraine and its potential NATO membership.

On December 26, Putin said in an interview broadcast on Russian state television that he would consider various options if the West did not meet the demands. Russia’s response “could be diverse”, he said, adding: “It will depend on the proposals that our military experts submit to me.”

The senior US administration official said the US would respond if Russia invaded Ukraine, including strengthening NATO forces on the eastern flank of the alliance.

The United States has warned that it will impose punitive economic sanctions in the event of an invasion.

With reports from Reuters, AP and AFP