Biden, Putin Talk as Russian Leader Seeks to Redraw European Security Arrangements

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Moscow builds troops near Ukraine and issues demands to NATO and the US

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Since the fall, Mr Putin has ordered a mass dispatch of troops to Ukraine, which US and European officials say could be a prelude to an invasion. In doing so, Mr. Putin is trying to force the US and its NATO allies to overcome Moscow’s objections to coalition ties with Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet states, current and former officials said.

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Earlier on Thursday, Mr Putin said in a holiday message to Mr Biden that he was confident the two leaders could work together, while making it clear that he still hoped their demands would be addressed. “We can move forward and establish an effective Russian-American dialogue with mutual respect and respect for each other’s national interests,” he said.

The White House has said it welcomes the opportunity to de-escalate tensions at the highest level, but it is unwilling to put Ukraine’s potential membership in NATO on the bargaining table.

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Mr Putin sparked the ongoing crisis, current and former US officials said, with his troop deployment and demands for security guarantees that would prevent NATO’s eastern expansion and parts of the former Soviet Union denying membership in the coalition.

“It’s almost as if Putin and the Kremlin were saying: ‘Wait a minute, we’re a nuclear superpower, focus on us,'” said Angela Stant, a Brookings Institution fellow and former US national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. ” “The major Western players have become distracted, and Putin took the initiative and, in essence, created a crisis where there was no crisis to secure concessions from the West.”

Russia’s foreign ministry this month posted two proposed agreements that would redefine European security on its website—a draft treaty with the US and one with NATO countries—after submitting them to a senior State Department official. The treaty was issued in English and Russian versions and was completed with signature blocks for both parties.

“You must give us guarantees,” Mr Putin said at his annual press conference on 23 December. “Now!”

Mr Biden had tried to forge a different relationship with his Russian counterpart. Ahead of his first summit meeting with Mr Putin in June, officials in the Biden administration made it clear they were seeking a predictable and stable relationship with Moscow.

Although the two leaders did not resolve key issues at their summit, they expressed interest in maintaining a working relationship and reiterated the formula codified by former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won”. and should never be fought.”

Mr Putin, however, is not satisfied with the status quo in Europe, which he has said presents a long-term threat to Russian security, and has rejected long-standing demands for a sphere of influence along his country’s periphery. Saw an opportunity to press. ,

Although NATO stated in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia would one day be members, the coalition did not proceed to fulfill that pledge. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and the war between Kiev and Russian-backed separatists has been running low.

Moscow has become concerned that Ukraine is moving west and possibly towards NATO membership. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was cracking down on pro-Russian politicians and media inside his country, giving the Kremlin less leverage over Ukraine’s internal politics.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military is receiving Western weapons systems and training from members of NATO, although it is far less capable than Russia’s forces.

Dara Masicott, a Russian military expert at RAND Corp, said Russia’s military deployment has left the Kremlin with many diplomatic and military options as it seeks concessions from Washington and NATO.

“They’re creating this artificial sense of urgency. Many of their demands are years old. They’re using military force to underscore the point. They’re trying to set the pace for talks and make concessions, She said. “It’s almost as if Ukraine is hostage.”

Write Michael R. Gordon at [email protected]

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