President Joe Biden will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in an ongoing bid to resolve tensions regarding Ukraine diplomatically, without resorting to military action from any side.
A senior administration official confirmed the call yesterday and said the phone call comes at the request of senior Russian leaders. The pair last talked directly on Dec. 7.
“Russia has put its concerns on the table and we are prepared to discuss them,” the official said. “The United States and our allies and partners will put our concerns on the table and expect Russia to be prepared to discuss them as well.”
Ukrainian leaders have estimated as many as 100,000 Russian fighters have been mobilized to the border between the two counties in what appears to be a preparation for a Russian military advance in coming weeks.
But Russian leaders have insisted the moves are a response to NATO aggression in the region.
During a press conference last week, Putin said that Russia “will act on the basis of our core security” and added that, “we have to keep an eye on what is happening in Ukraine and on when they might attack.”
Tensions in the region date back to 2014, when Russia forcibly annexed Crimea over the objections of Ukraine and the international community.
U.S. intelligence officials have said they do not yet know if Putin is committed to a further incursion into Ukrainian territory in 2022. Biden has repeatedly threatened “severe consequences” if Russia does invade again, but has also said that would mean economic sanctions, not a U.S. military response.
U.S. and Russian officials are scheduled to hold security talks on Jan. 10 on the situation, but senior officials said Biden welcomed the opportunity for direct communication between himself and Putin ahead of that work.
“If the leader of another country, particularly at a moment of elevated tension such as we have now, reaches out and says, ‘I want to discuss some issues,’ [Biden] is going to be prepared to have that direct leader-to-leader dialogue,” a senior administration official said.
Biden is not expected to make any announcements or decisions without first consulting with allies, however.
NATO countries have discussed not only sanctions against Russia but also providing more military equipment and training to Ukrainian forces to further deter any aggression.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.