President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak today, the White House said, as Washington crafts a common response to Russia’s military build-up on the Ukraine border with European allies.
The two leaders will discuss a range of topics, including upcoming security talks between the countries and a tense situation in Europe, White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement on Wednesday.
The call will take place at 3:30 pm ET (2030 GMT), the White House said.
Horne said Biden had spoken with leaders across Europe about the situation on the Ukraine border, while Biden administration officials were in touch with NATO, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
But there is a feeling in the EU that the bloc may be left out of negotiations that are meant to begin in January between Russia and the US.
EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell complained that the bloc should have a seat a the negotiating table.
He told German daily Welt: “If Moscow, as announced, wants to talk about the security architecture in Europe and security guarantees from January, then this is not just a matter that concerns America and Russia.”
In a bid to reassure Brussels, a senior US administration official told Politico that Biden “will make clear when he speaks with President Putin that we will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners on all of these matters and will proceed on the principle of nothing about them without them”.
Moscow has alarmed the West by massing tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine in the past two months, following its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its backing of separatists fighting Kyiv troops in eastern Ukraine.
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One of the officials said: “We are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now given the Russian build-up, and it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to find a path of de-escalation.”
The same person said Putin requested the call with Biden.
They added: “When President Biden has asked to speak with President Putin over the course of 2021, President Putin has said, Yes, let’s talk. And when President Putin says, I’m interested in touching base and having a phone call, President Biden says yes.”
Biden is likely to reiterate during the call that the United States will take swift economic action against Russia in the case of an invasion.
They will also reinforce the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in such a case.
But the US President has been pushing direct diplomacy as an alternative.
The Biden administration has been in deep talks with Ukraine as well as a host of NATO allies, including those bordering Russia, according to Horne, the White House spokesperson.
Biden will likely speak with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy soon, another official said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Ukrainian leader on Wednesday and expressed “unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence,” according to a spokesperson.