Biden accepts Putin’s request for phone call ahead of January talks on Ukraine

President Biden will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday afternoon, ahead of a series of diplomatic talks in January on Russia’s military build-up on its border with Ukraine.

Why this matters: The call – which was requested by Putin, according to a senior Biden administration official – is the second time the two leaders have spoken this month.

  • With more than a million troops crowding the border with Ukraine, US officials have warned that Russia could launch a massive offensive as soon as next month.
  • Putin has put forth a series of maximal demands to reduce US and NATO activities in Europe, warning that the expansion of the alliance and cooperation with Ukraine threatens Russia’s security.

What are they saying: A senior administration official said they could not speak specifically why Putin requested the phone call, but noted that Biden is always ready to speak directly with his counterparts in times of tension.

  • “President Biden will clarify that there Is If President Putin is interested in taking it, there is a diplomatic route to de-escalate tensions in the region,” the official said.
  • The official said the US has developed its own detailed list of concerns about Russia’s behavior and the security situation in Europe, but they plan to publicly discuss with the Russians behind closed doors.

big picture: The US and Russia this week agreed to hold bilateral talks on January 10, followed by the Russia-NATO Council meeting on January 12 and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on January 13.

  • The US and its European allies have threatened Russia with unprecedented sanctions and increasing the presence of troops in NATO’s eastern side if Putin moves forward with an invasion of Ukraine.
  • Putin has demanded that NATO expand eastward and halt all military activity in the former Soviet republics. The US has said it will consider Russia’s proposals, but called some of them “unacceptable”.

Between the lines: The Biden administration is deliberating on how to coordinate with its European allies, insisting that no talks about the security of Europe and Ukraine should take place without them on the table.

  • Foreign Minister Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in constant touch with his Ukrainian counterpart.
  • Ukraine’s government has asked the US for more military aid to help stop Russia, but requests have not yet been met as the Biden administration seeks a possible diplomatic solution.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new details.


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