Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are expected to hold an urgent phone call Thursday, expected for evening Russia time, which marks the second such call in less than a month amid ratcheting Ukraine tensions, with the Kremlin accused of amassing some 100,000 troops near the border.
During the prior early December phone call Biden warned Putin of “sever consequences” for any incursion into Eastern Ukraine. But now things may have cooled slightly, given the US and Russia are expected to hold a January 10 meeting to discuss Russia’s security proposals to halt NATO’s eastward expansion.
Biden is at his home in Delaware just ahead of the New Year’s holiday. He’s expected in the Thursday call to engage Putin on “a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia,” according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council.
“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 Wednesday statement added.
The Russian side also confirmed the planned call, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying, “Indeed, Putin’s phone call with the US president is scheduled for late tomorrow evening.”
Meanwhile in Tuesday remarks, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Moscow won’t back down from its unwavering position:
“Our leadership has repeatedly said we can no longer tolerate the situation that is developing in the immediate vicinity of our borders. We cannot tolerate NATO expansion. We will not just prevent it. We will put a stop to it,” Ryabkov said.
He told Interfax news agency that Russia country will enter the Jan.10 negotiations with “a clear agenda and reject any attempts by US diplomats to dilute the proposed agreement between the two parties,” according to state media.
He emphasized that Russia will not compromise on its red lines as spelled out in the draft documents submitted in prior days to Brussels and Washington: “We should not come up with some kind of dimensionless agenda when it is in our interest to include topics that have long been sorted out through other channels. We have to focus exclusively on the two draft documents that we have presented.”
NEW: Putin – Biden 📞 tomorrow
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) December 29, 2021
The last Biden-Putin call was held Dec.7 – where Biden reportedly agreed to pursue lower level talks on Putin’s requested “legal guarantees” over NATO expansion. In particular the Kremlin also wants to see Brussels’ prior “promises” that Ukraine and Georgia would be put on a path to NATO membership rescinded.