The US president, Joe Biden, and Russian head, Vladimir Putin, will speak on Thursday, December 30, as the Russian leader has increasingly stepped up his demands for security guarantees in Eastern Europe.
The two leaders are going to discuss “a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement announcing the call.
The talks have been scheduled as the U.S. and its Western allies have observed the buildup of Russian soldiers near the Ukraine border, growing to an estimated 100,000 and giving rise to fears that Moscow might be preparing to invade Ukraine. While the international community tried to dissuade Putin’s government, both Biden’s administration and the UK government made it clear that they would not send troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.
However, in light of the developing situation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken “reiterated the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty against the backdrop of Russia’s military buildup close to Ukraine’s borders.”
Price said that the two discussed efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine as well as upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia.
Earlier this week, Putin had said he would ponder a slew of options if the West fails to meet his drive for security guarantees regarding NATO’s interference and expansion in Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents with clear demands that NATO denies membership to Ukraine and the other former Soviet countries. It also asked NATO to roll back military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. At the time NATO rejected Moscow’s demands, saying countries would be allowed to make their own choice whether they wanted to join the alliance.
While Putin and Biden are to hold talks tomorrow, the US will also meet the Russian delegation in January 2022, to discuss the situation with Ukraine, nuclear arms control, among other things. The talks are expected to begin from January 10, and a spokesperson for the National Security Council has addressed the matter, saying “The United States looks forward to engaging with Russia”.
[Edited with AP inputs]