Biden, Putin talk nearly an hour as alarm rises over Ukraine
Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin spoke frankly for nearly an hour late Thursday amid growing alarm over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine, a simmering crisis that’s recently deepened as the Kremlin has stiffened its demands for increased security guarantees and test fired hypersonic missiles to underscore its demands.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser said Biden reaffirmed the U.S. threat of new sanctions against Russia in case of an escalation or invasion, to which Putin responded with a warning of his own that such a U.S. move could lead to a complete rupture of ties.
“It would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences,” said Yuri Ushakov. He added that Putin told Biden that Russia would act as the U.S. would if offensive weapons were deployed near American borders.
Putin requested the call, the second between the leaders this month, ahead of scheduled talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials set for Jan. 10 in Geneva.
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.
The White House said ahead of the call that 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.
Those demands are to be discussed during the talks in Geneva, but it remains unclear what, if anything, Biden would be willing to offer Putin in exchange for defusing the crisis.