The USA and Russia have been embroiled in a war of words since it emerged President Putin had ordered tens of thousands of troops close to the border in what is being interpreted as fresh hostility in an ongoing dispute over Ukraine’s relationship with the West. Today’s call comes ahead of negotiations between the two powers scheduled for January 10, with the White House confirming the call in a statement, saying the leaders would discuss “upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia.”
A recent buildup of Russian troops near the border has grown to an estimated 100,000 and has accelerated fears that Moscow is preparing to invade Ukraine.
The Kremlin has denied any intention to invade the former Soviet Union state, but Western allies have been quick to denounce President Putin.
The USA has repeatedly warned Russia it would back Ukraine in any capacity – but Russia is now putting forward its demands to the G7 and NATO.
In talks held earlier this month, President Putin demanded “reliable, legal guarantees” that would prevent the expansion of NATO eastward.
The demands include a ban on Ukraine from joining NATO and limiting troop deployment and weapons to Nato’s eastern flank.
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Josep Borrell said: “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.”
He added: “European security is our security. It’s about us. This is not simply the case for two states, i.e. America and Russia, or NATO and Russia — even if Moscow imagines it.”
A senior US administration official told the Atlantic Mr 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.”
But the matter goes deeper than simply being left out of negotiations.
The USA and NATO’s threat of economic punishments for Russia, should any conflict begin, will actually be the responsibility of the EU acting on unilateral agreements between NATO members.
Europe is something of a gold mine for the Russian President – the bloc buys some 40 percent of Russian exports and is the country’s biggest trading partner by a considerable stretch.
To add, there is the current issue of the gas crisis gripping Europe, and Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed monopoly gas exporter, could become embroiled in the dispute.
European politicians have suggested Moscow is deliberately suppressing gas deliveries to shore up its political position regarding Ukraine, and the late European certification of another pipeline, Nord Stream 2, is also raising prices.
The Kremlin has denied the accusations, and in a trading dispute that barely touches the USA, the EU could have its hand forced despite being locked out of the negotiations.