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Russia-Ukraine tensions: between Biden and Putin, a discussion to calm things down

Byeditorial

Dec 7, 2021

Published on :

Joe Biden, President of the United States of America, and Vladimir Putin, Russian President, will meet on Tuesday. Tensions at the border between Russia and Ukraine will be at the heart of the debates. Washington fears a Russian invasion while Moscow rises against a possible rallying of Ukraine to NATO. The two heads of state will try to appease a hot topic.

Video conferencing has replaced the red telephone. But there are a lot of Cold War accents on Tuesday, December 7, around the interview Joe Biden and Vladimir Poutin must have. Will the US President dissuade his Russian counterpart from invading Ukraine? Is the Kremlin resident really ready or is he bluffing? So many questions at the heart of the very high-risk interview planned between the two men, with a common objective: to avoid escalation.

Presidents Biden and Putin have already phoned each other several times and seen each other in person in June in Geneva, Switzerland. A meeting deemed encouraging by the Biden administration, in its quest for a “stable” and “predictable” bilateral relationship.

This time, on the contrary, it is in an extremely volatile context that they meet, in the form of videoconferencing – secure, specifies the White House – at 10 a.m. in Washington, therefore at the end of the day-beginning of the evening. Moscow (6 p.m. Moscow time).

Biden facing difficult balancing act

Washington and Kiev accuse Moscow of massing troops on the border with Ukraine to attack the country, replaying the scenario that saw the Russians annex the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, and plunge Ukraine into a war that has spanned more than 13,000 dead. Experts are divided: many believe that Vladimir Putin is bluffing, but few completely dismiss the possibility of an attack.

>> Also read on France24.com: Russia-Ukraine, a look back at the conflict in a few key dates

If Moscow were to take action, a senior White House official detailed on Monday the levers the United States would be ready to operate. First, “the United States would respond favorably” to a demand for an increased military presence from its NATO allies in Eastern Europe. Then they would support the Ukrainian army more. Finally, Washington would take heavy economic sanctions against the regime of Vladimir Putin, and especially different from those stacked since 2014 against Russia, without much effect.

But “the United States does not seek to find itself in a position where the direct use of American forces is at the center of [leurs] reflections “, according to the senior American official. In short: no question for the moment of a direct American military response.

Joe Biden, who called Vladimir Putin a “killer”, plays a delicate score. He wants to be the great spokesperson for Democrats around the world. He is also organizing on Thursday and Friday a virtual “summit of democracies” sharply criticized by Moscow and Beijing, who are not invited. And it must cleverly manage the Ukrainian crisis, otherwise it will scare even more the traditional allies of the United States, already irritated by the withdrawal from Afghanistan, carried out in a chaotic manner, and without much consultation according to them.

Few illusions about the progress to be expected from this meeting

Joe Biden intends to report personally on his meeting with Vladimir Putin to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The latter visited on Monday the soldiers of his army on the front line against pro-Russian separatists, in the Donetsk region. “Thank you for protecting our sovereignty and our territorial integrity,” he told his men.


The US President spoke by phone Monday with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, all expressing “their determination that the sovereignty” of Ukraine “is respected “, Paris said. Will this strategy of deterrence pay off with a Vladimir Putin so concerned with international stature?

“It is difficult to expect a breakthrough in these negotiations,” the Kremlin spokesman has already said, saying that it was unlikely to bring order to “the Augean stables. “bilateral relations” within hours “of interview. “In Moscow, we do not have many illusions about the concrete progress we can expect from this meeting,” confirms Julian Colling, correspondent for France 24 in Moscow.

Are possible American sanctions really dissuasive?

Moscow wants a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO, as so many countries in the former Soviet bloc have. However, neither Kiev nor Washington will make such a commitment, even if, in fact, the procedure for Ukraine’s accession to the Western military alliance, although officially open, seems frozen. Some experts believe that the very holding of this summit is in itself a victory for Vladimir Putin, who wants to assert Russia as a power in the global geopolitical game, today dominated by the rivalry between China and the United States.

“We have made it clear that we support Ukraine’s right to decide its own future. No one else should have a say in what NATO decides to do, or what Ukraine decides. to do, “said Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department.

Bruce Jentleson, professor of political science at Duke University and adviser to the State Department between 2009 and 2011, for his part, doubts the deterrent scope of the financial sanctions agitated by the White House. Speculation is rife around an initiative by Washington to cut Russia off from SWIFT messaging, an essential cog in global finance, which allows banks to circulate money.

“To hear them, it is the economic version nuclear weapon, but I doubt that [les sanctions] have such an impact “, explains Bruce Jentleson. They should” be coordinated with the Europeans as a minimum, and even then there are ways of getting around them. “

With AFP

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