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Biden wants to prevent the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but time is running out

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia on October 21, 2021.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

US President Joe Biden is expected to warn Russian President Vladimir Putin of an attack on Ukraine during a video call Tuesday, but experts say the US is running out of time to prevent further hostilities between neighboring countries.

The call comes from fears that, following the movements of Russian military troops on the border and the increasingly aggressive rhetoric from Moscow against Kiev, Russia is planning some kind of military action against Ukraine.

For his part, Putin said on November 30 that Russia was concerned about military exercises in Ukraine near the border that posed a threat to Moscow.

He has insisted that Russia be free to move troops into its own territory and has denied claims that the country is preparing to invade Ukraine, calling such notions “alarmist”.

However, close supporters of Russian politics are not convinced that Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991, are benign.

Many experts (and Ukrainian leaders) believe that Putin – who said the dissolution of the union in 2005 was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the century” – has a desire to rebuild the Soviet empire, with Russia often trying to expand it, or To exert influence on former Soviet republics such as Belarus and Ukraine. Russia is opposed to efforts by Ukraine, NATO and its neighbor to join the EU.

No compromise?

Experts are also not convinced that Biden and allied nations in Europe can find a compromise with Putin, and warn that the window of opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the growing tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the West is closing.

Russia expert Timothy Ash, a senior emerging market debt strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said the call from Putin and Biden will likely be “very difficult” and “difficult to see where the tradeoffs will come from”.

“Putin wants security guarantees for no further NATO expansion, a non-aligned status for Ukraine and restrictions on Ukrainian armament and the NATO troop presence in Ukraine. Biden cannot give this, and Ukraine would never agree – unless under extreme duress, ”Ash said in a Monday evening note.

“Biden will use the sanctions and the carrot of further talks to try to buy Ukraine time to build up its defenses. [The] Question is, is Putin ready to wait? “

Ash added that Putin may think now is the best time to get his way on Ukraine and the West.

What Russia wants

For weeks there has been reports of an increase in Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, movements that have led NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to warn that NATO members should prepare for the worst about Russia and Ukraine.

“You can discuss whether the probability of a break-in is 20% or 80%, it doesn’t matter. We have to be prepared for the worst,” Stoltenberg told reporters on November 30 after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga. Latvia.

“There is no certainty, no clarity about Russia’s exact intentions, and they can actually evolve and change,” added the NATO chief, noting that “they have done it before,” referring to the Crimea.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is charged with sending troops and weapons in support of pro-Russian uprisings to two self-proclaimed republics in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, although Moscow denies this.

Maxim Samorukov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Monday: “Putin is much more blunt about what he wants in Ukraine and what he is willing to do to achieve it.”

“In just a few days, Putin has said that he wants an agreement to prevent Ukraine from ever joining NATO. He also wants a Western promise never to deploy NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine,” Samorukov said in one Editorial.

He added that the Kremlin had messages to the US last year: “First, Russia attaches great importance to Ukraine in the situation.”

An unclassified US intelligence document received by Reuters shows Russian military activity on the territory of Russia and the Russian-annexed Crimea near the border with Ukraine.

Reuters

“Putin wants Biden to finally face an uncomfortable dilemma. The message is simple: Washington must prepare for its partner Ukraine to be militarily defeated in a particularly humiliating repetition of the recent events in Afghanistan, and to reach a compromise with Moscow over Ukraine, “said Samorukov.

The Kremlin does not seem to be under any illusions that the first option would add enormous cost to the Russian economy and international standing, he added Russian national interests. “

Affected allies

US, European and NATO officials have warned Russia of any military aggression against Ukraine, telling Moscow that it would have serious political and economic consequences, which is already under international sanctions for annexing Crimea.

Since Ukraine is not a NATO member, the military alliance has no obligation to defend the country. How far the US and the EU could go to protect Ukraine is therefore uncertain.

The heads of state and government of France, the USA, Great Britain, Germany and Italy spoke on Monday evening, according to a spokesman for Downing Street, about the increasing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

“They stressed the need to form a united front in the face of Russian threats and hostilities,” the spokesman said in a statement, adding that they called “on Russia to de-escalate tensions and reiterated its firm support for the territorial integrity of the country Ukraine. “

The leaders will speak again after Biden’s talks with Putin, the spokesman added. The Putin Biden video call is due to take place around 3 p.m. According to Reuters London time.

Russia itself does not seem to have high hopes for the meeting. On Monday, the evening before the call, the Kremlin described the state of US-Russian relations as “quite deplorable,” Reuters said.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to look east towards Asia for trade and diplomatic ties. Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed more than two dozen agreements in a variety of sectors and agreed to cooperate on regional security during a bilateral meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

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