The presidents of Russia and the USA, Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, try to reduce tensions around Ukraine in a virtual summit, in the face of accusations from the West that the Kremlin may plan an attack against its neighbor and Moscow’s fear of a closer approach of NATO towards its borders.
The videoconference, in which Putin will participate from his residence in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, will begin at around 4:00 p.m. (Spanish peninsular time) and “will last as long as it has to last,” according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov.
For Biden, the priority in this conversation will be to warn Putin that the consequences of an eventual attack against Ukraine, on whose borders Russia concentrates between 70,000 and 94,000 soldiers, according to US intelligence and that of Kiev, will be very serious.
The US estimates that Russia could attack or invade Ukraine with some 175,000 soldiers and Ukraine estimates the most likely moment of a new Russian aggression would be at the end of January 2022.
The White House is already working on a package of strong economic sanctions with European partners and Ukraine itself to deter Putin from an eventual attack.
These sanctions could include, according to CNN, new restrictions against Putin’s close circle and the Russian energy sector, in addition to a potential “nuclear option”, which would be to disconnect Russia from the Swift banking data transfer system.
Biden will also warn Putin that he is willing to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, probably with “additional” troops, should Russia attack or invade Ukraine, a senior US official said Monday on condition of anonymity.
The Russian president, for his part, wants to present to Biden his proposal that there be legally binding guarantees that NATO does not expand further towards Russia, that is, to Ukraine and Georgia, and that it does not deploy weapons on Ukrainian territory.
Russia, which is trying to reverse the Western discourse on a possible invasion of Ukraine, claims that it has every right to deploy its troops where and when it pleases.
Putin has assured that Russia received verbal promises at the time that NATO was not going to expand to the east, but did the opposite in 1999 and 2004, ignoring “legitimate Russian security concerns” then and now as well.
Likewise, Russia affirms that it is Ukraine that intends to recover “by force” the separatist territories of Donetsk and Lugansk, in the east of the country, where the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian forces supported politically and militarily by Moscow have been fighting since 2014.
Kiev has flatly denied it and assured that it is committed to a diplomatic solution to the conflict in the Donbas.
Breach of agreements
Russia also denounces that Ukraine fails to comply with the Minsk Peace Accords for a peaceful settlement in the east of the country and that France and Germany, which are part of the Normandy Format to mediate, together with Moscow and Kiev, are not partial and ignore the violations. of the pacts by the Zelensky government.
Peskov has reiterated that Putin will listen to Biden’s proposals on Ukraine for the settlement of the conflict, but that he does not believe that it would be necessary to change the format.
Get involved in negotiations
Zelenski has said on several occasions that the US and other countries, such as the UK and Canada, should get involved in the negotiations, either in an extension of the Normandy format or in a parallel format.
In addition to Ukraine, both leaders will talk about the battered bilateral relations and the agreements reached at their first summit in Geneva last June regarding dialogues on strategic stability and cybersecurity or the elimination of obstacles to the work of the legations in the US and Russia. .
They will also analyze the situation around Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and Syria, as well as the coronavirus pandemic.