Putin happy with results of Biden security call, Kremlin says
Russian President Vladimir Putin is satisfied with the outcome of talks with US President Joe Biden, which set the stage for three sets of negotiations on European security next month, the Kremlin said after a 50-minute call between the two leaders.
Bilateral US-Russia talks will start in Geneva on 9 January, followed by a Russia-NATO Council meeting in Brussels two days later and negotiations in Vienna within the OSCE framework on 13 January, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters early on Friday Moscow time. The two leaders agreed to keep in regular contact during the negotiations and to oversee the bilateral talks directly, he said.
“This is what we are working for and for this our presidents reached agreement, which is why we are happy and satisfied,” Ushakov said. “Today’s conversation was good, constructive, frank, and it seems to me that it provides not a bad, even in fact a good, basis for the start of negotiations.”
Biden urged Putin to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. She said Biden warned that the US and its allies will “respond decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine.
“President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” Psaki said. “President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.”
After Biden’s warning that Russia faced huge sanctions if it attacks Ukraine, Putin responded that further large-scale penalties would lead to a severing of relations between Moscow and the West, Ushakov said. “It will be a colossal mistake which could lead to the most serious consequences,” Ushakov said. That could have implications for talks on arms control, cybersecurity, climate change and other topics the US wants to pursue with Russia.
The 50-minute call began at 3:35 pm Washington time, 11:35 pm in Moscow, according to the White House.
Putin sought the call - which Biden took from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he’s vacationing - as a prelude to the negotiations on European security at the start of the year, the Kremlin said.
Biden laid out two possible paths during the call: diplomacy or serious consequences, according to a US official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. The consequences likely include augmentation of NATO forces and sweeping economic repercussions, the person said.
The US plans to closely monitor troop movements at Russia’s border with Ukraine, the person said. The White House plans to consult with allies ahead of the dialogues next month and will brief partners on Thursday’s call between Biden and Putin
The talks follow a 7 December Biden-Putin video call in which the American president affirmed a commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and warned that Russian aggression would be met with unprecedented economic penalties.
The US has told European allies that the massive Russian military presence near Ukraine might be preparation for an invasion as early as next month before the frozen terrain turns to mud in spring.
The Kremlin denies any intention to invade its neighbour, while also demanding security guarantees from the West that include a ban on eventual expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to encompass former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Georgia and the withdrawal of NATO forces in Europe to positions they held in 1997. American officials and NATO allies have described those conditions as non-starters.
European leaders have been largely reduced to spectators so far as the US and Russia have bargained over the parameters of talks on the continent’s security.
The US and its allies have threatened Moscow with harsh economic reprisals if its troops march into Ukraine, but those warnings show that the West, at this point, is only willing to go so far. There’s no talk of sending their own troops into Ukraine.
Despite the US decision to engage in one-on-one talks between Biden and Putin, American officials have repeatedly insisted they will make no deals that short-change the concerns of Ukraine and the European allies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy Wednesday and said in a tweet that he reaffirmed “full US support for Ukraine.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated on Tuesday what’s becoming the standard US response to concern that the Biden administration may cut its own deal with Russia while shortchanging the concerns of Ukraine and European allies. “The principle is inviolable - nothing about them without them,” he said.
The crisis is a repeat of one in the spring, when Putin also massed forces near the border with Ukraine before backing down in April after Biden in a call offered a summit meeting that took place in June.
It’s not yet clear what compromise can be reached during the coming talks, Ushakov said after the Biden-Putin call, though Russia will “naturally” take account of some concerns of the US and its allies. “For us the main thing is not a compromise, but to get security guarantees, which we urgently need,” he said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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