WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday as Ukraine sits on the precipice of crisis with the buildup of Russian troops at their border.
Though it was Putin who requested the call, requests for the talks have been made previously both leaders. Senior administration officials said Biden and Putin will discuss a range of security and strategic issues with Russia's troop presence on the Ukrainian border chief among them. Other topics include bilateral talks through the strategic stability dialogue and meetings that will be held on Jan. 10 for the NATO Russia Council and the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Senior U.S. administration officials said they continue to be “gravely concerned” about what Russia is capable of doing with its presence on the border, and that it does not perceive such presence as "static."
The U.S. considers progress from the call contingent on Putin committing to deescalating military action. Officials worry further escalation by Russia in Ukraine could destabilize the security of Europe. While Biden is entering the meeting with hopes to find a diplomatic solution, he will also warn Putin about the consequences of escalation. Those could include “severe” sanctions on the Russian economy by the U.S. and its allies, the reinforcement of NATO’s force posture, and U.S. assistance to Ukraine to help the country defend its territory.
“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,” Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in a statement. “President Biden has spoken with leaders across Europe, and Biden administration officials have engaged multilaterally with NATO, the EU and the OSCE. 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.”
B9 is short for the Bucharest Nine, a name coined by members of NATO's eastern flank who banded together in late 2015 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Earlier in the month, Russia released a set of demands including the rollback of NATO’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe and the exclusion of Ukraine from the alliance. Senior administration officials said they are prepared to discuss the concerns that Russia has laid out and the U.S., and its allies will voice their own concerns and expect Putin to be prepared to discuss them as well.
According to these officials, Biden agreed to the call because Putin has previously accepted his requests for talks and stressed that Biden values direct “leader-to-leader engagement” — especially considering the ongoing security situation with Ukraine.
The two leaders could also discuss progress with ongoing talks concerning salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear, the officials say.
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