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President Biden Speaks With Vladmir Putin Amid Rising Tensions Over Ukraine

President Biden Speaks With Vladmir Putin Amid Rising Tensions Over Ukraine

Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke Thursday amid growing alarm over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine, a simmering crisis that has become even more heated in recent days as the Kremlin has stepped up its calls for security guarantees and test-fired hypersonic missiles to underscore its demands.

Putin requested the call, the second between the leaders this month, ahead of scheduled talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials set for January 10th in Geneva. The White House said ahead of the call that President Biden would tell Putin that “a diplomatic path remains open” even as the Russians have moved an estimated 100,000 troops toward Ukraine and Kremlin officials have turned up the volume on its demands for new guarantees from the U.S. and NATO.

 

White House officials said that the call began at 3:35 p.m. EST and concluded 50 minutes later, after midnight in Moscow. There was no immediate readout from either side.

Russia has made clear it wants a written commitment that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO and that the alliance’s military equipment will not be positioned in former Soviet states, demands that the Biden administration has made clear are non-starters. Those demands are to be discussed during the talks in Geneva, but it remains unclear what, if anything, President Biden would be willing to offer Putin in exchange for defusing the crisis.

The U.S. and its allies have refused to offer Russia the kind of guarantees on Ukraine that Putin wants, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any qualifying country. They agreed, however, to hold talks with Russia to discuss its concerns. President Biden and Putin, who met in Geneva in June to discuss an array of tensions in the U.S.-Russia relationship, are not expected to take part in the January talks.

Key NATO members have made clear there is no appetite for expanding the alliance in the near future. The U.S. and allies could also be receptive to language in the Russians’ draft document calling for establishing new consultative mechanisms, such as the NATO-Russia Council and a hotline between NATO and Russia.

U.S. intelligence earlier this month determined that Russian planning was underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as soon as early 2022, but that Putin had yet to determine whether to move forward with it.

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