Biden, Putin to Hold Phone Call Today
Can Biden convince Putin to deescalate the conflict on the Russian-Ukrainian border?
President Joe Biden will hold a phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday, according to an announcement released by the White House.
Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, indicated in the statement that the two leaders would discuss “a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia.”
“The Biden Administration continues to engage in extensive diplomacy with our European Allies and partners, consulting and coordinating on a common approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine,” the statement read. It noted that members of the Biden administration had engaged with officials in NATO, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and that Biden had personally spoken with European leaders regarding Russia’s activities near Ukraine.
“Officials have also held numerous consultations with their counterparts, including those from eastern flank countries bilaterally and in the B9 format as well as Ukraine,” it read.
Throughout the second half of 2021, Russian troops have steadily built up on the country’s border with Ukraine, leading to speculation that it might be preparing for war. Ukrainian intelligence officials have argued that the target date of Moscow’s invasion is in January, although the Kremlin has insisted that it is not planning an invasion.
The White House’s announcement comes shortly after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s indication that Russian and U.S. officials would meet in Washington to discuss de-escalating the situation along the border. The meetings, set to begin on January 10, concern a list of security guarantees that Moscow has requested from Washington. In a draft security pact prepared by Russian officials earlier in the month, Russia requested an ironclad guarantee that Ukraine would never be allowed to enter NATO, as well as a halt to training exercises and troop deployments in central and eastern Europe.
There is little chance that either of these conditions will be accepted by the Biden administration or by NATO. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced on December 17 that the military alliance’s negotiations with Russia would receive input from its regional partners, including Ukraine. Biden has also indicated that NATO, rather than Russia, should be the ultimate arbiter on which nations are allowed to join.
The call between Putin and Biden will be the second meeting between the two leaders in December, following a video conference on December 7. Moscow is also expected to meet with representatives from NATO on January 12 and with officials from the OSCE the following day.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.