Ukraine: Vladimir Putin imposes his calendar on Joe Biden

The meeting between the American and Russian presidents, Thursday evening, December 30, opens a new diplomatic sequence, two weeks after the unprecedented demands addressed by Moscow to NATO, intended to redefine the architecture of European security. Vladimir Poutine and Joe Biden discussed this unique topic by telephone for fifty minutes, in an attempt to defuse tensions unseen since the end of the Cold War, resulting from the deployment by Moscow of more than 100,000 soldiers along the Ukrainian border.

Mr. Putin had requested that a phone call be made this week. Mr. Biden, who believes that nothing can replace direct conversations between heads of state, immediately agreed. The two heads of state last spoke on December 7 during a video conference that ended with a commitment to resume diplomatic discussions, but in the absence of signs of de-escalation on the ground. This week, the United States for the first time flew twice over Ukraine an American electronic warfare and intelligence aircraft Jstars, in order to collect data on the ground movements of Russian troops. .

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Joe Biden speaks with Vladimir Putin on the phone about Ukraine, in Wilmington (United States), December 30, 2021.

According to the very succinct statement released by the White House shortly after the conversation, “President Biden has urged Russia to defuse tensions with Ukraine. He said the United States and its allies and partners would respond decisively if Russia invaded Ukraine more. » A reference to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and to the military support given to the separatists in Donbass. “Substantial progress in these dialogues can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation”, indicates the press release. Moscow has counted precisely on military escalation, articulated with the demand for immediate concessions on the part of NATO, to force Washington to start a dialogue on security in Europe.

Released later that evening, the more substantial statement from the Kremlin recalls the Russian demands: “It was emphasized [durant la conversation] that the result of the joint work should be strong legal guarantees excluding NATO’s eastward enlargement and the deployment of offensive weapons systems in close proximity to Russian borders. “ Indicating that “The conversation was frank and pragmatic and, of course, useful to both parties”, the press release suggests having obtained an American concession, because “Washington does not intend to deploy offensive strike weapons on the territory of Ukraine.” But also threatens to “Complete rupture of Russian-American relations” if Joe Biden committed the “Serious mistake” to introduce “Large-scale sanctions against Russia for escalation around Ukraine”.

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On the airwaves of state radio Mayak, the diplomatic adviser to Russian President Yuri Ushakov unveiled part of the Russian argument. According to him, “Vladimir Putin has repeatedly signaled during the meeting with his American counterpart that Russia will behave in the same way as the United States if offensive weapons are deployed near its borders”.

A Ukrainian female soldier rests near a fighting position on the dividing line with pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on December 30, 2021.
A Ukrainian soldier on the dividing line with pro-Russian rebels, in the Donetsk region (Ukraine), December 30, 2021

Efforts to marginalize Europeans

In this dialogue, initiated by a country aspiring to regain its status as a superpower on par with the United States, the desire for symmetry is accompanied by efforts to marginalize Europeans. In mid-December, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell suggested in Moscow that the European Union (EU) should be involved in negotiations on the European security architecture. On December 18, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov replied on the official TASS news agency that the objective was to meet exclusively with Washington. “We are proposing negotiations on a bilateral basis with the United States. If we involve other countries, we will just drown it all in debate and verbiage. “

A more frank rebuff came from the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma Leonid Slutsky. « [Josep Borrell] says only winners can set conditions. I would like to ask Mr. Borrell who he thinks is the winner? Is it the EU that has been remotely guided by Washington in its decision-making in recent years? “, wrote Mr. Slutsky on the social network Telegram on Wednesday. And to assert: “Russia will talk to those who are really able to influence the situation. “

Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, Moscow, December 30, 2021.

This perception of geopolitics, where the world is shared in “Spheres of influence”, dominates today within the Russian political elite. It is reflected in the growing reluctance of the Russian president to participate in the “Normandy format” bringing together the heads of state of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to find a political settlement to the war in Donbass. Vladimir Poutine and his entourage consider that Kiev has lost its sovereignty and receives its orders from the American embassy. In an article published in his pen in July, the Russian president wrote: “Step by step, Ukraine is being drawn into a dangerous geopolitical game, the aim of which was to make Ukraine a barrier between Europe and Russia, an anti-Russia that we will never accept. “ Failing to ask Joe Biden to return Ukraine to him, the Russian president at least demands that she not be defended.

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Ukraine: Vladimir Putin imposes his calendar on Joe Biden