Biden and Putin to Talk Thursday

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
December 29, 2021 Updated: December 29, 2021

President Joe Biden has scheduled a leader-to-leader telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin for Thursday Dec. 30.

According to a senior administration official, the call comes at the request of Russia to discuss a “range of security and strategic issues.”

Russia has amassed troops at the border of Ukraine in recent weeks with estimates of more than 90,000 along the border and in Russian-annexed Crimea.

And earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.

The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia any guarantees, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any qualifying country.

On the call, President Biden is expected to make clear to Putin that the United States is still coordinating with its allies to impose severe sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine.

Biden made this warning when the two leaders last spoke during a call on Dec. 7.

On the upcoming call, Biden is also expected to make clear that the United States is prepared for diplomacy and for a diplomatic path forward.

“I think both leaders believe that there is genuine value in direct leader-to-leader engagement, that we are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now, given the Russian buildup, and that it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation,” said a senior administration official.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday to coordinate and consult on a range of issues from the perspective of the government of Ukraine.

The call comes ahead of high-level bilateral talks between Russian and the United States scheduled for the week of Jan. 10 in Geneva. These will include the Strategic Stability Dialogue, as well as the NATO-Russia Council and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council meeting.

U.S. officials have said the military buildup, along with a spike in anti-Ukrainian activity on social media, harkens back to a “similar playbook” used by Putin in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea.

Officials have also said, should Russia invade Ukraine, the sanctions imposed would be far beyond what was implemented in 2014.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters in December that the United States has held intensive conversations with both the incoming and outgoing German governments on the subject of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the context of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.