Original title: Interpretation | Biden Putin’s video dialogue for 2 hours, mutual requests regarding the situation in Ukraine
At around 18:00 on December 7th, Moscow time (23:00 on the 7th, Beijing time), US President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a two-hour closed-door meeting through a confidential video communication channel. Regarding the recent extremely tense situation in Ukraine, the leaders of the United States and Russia explained their positions and “red lines” to each other. After the meeting, the Russian side stated that the atmosphere of the talks between the two sides was frank and pragmatic.
Although the United States and Russia did not issue a joint statement like the Geneva Summit in Switzerland in June this year, Biden and Putin’s aides both came forward to report the content of the talks. According to Russian President’s International Affairs Assistant Yuri Ushakov, NATO’s eastward expansion and other actions threaten Russia’s national security. Putin asked the West to provide legal guarantees that NATO will no longer expand eastward; Jack Sullivan, the national security adviser to the US President, said, Biden told Putin that if Russia takes action against Ukraine, the United States will impose sanctions and send troops to the east wing of NATO.
This is the second Russia-US summit held this year under the initiative of the United States. Russian Satellite News Agency quoted Alexei Mushin, director of the Russian Political Information Center, as saying on the 8th, “This shows that the United States intends to cooperate with Russia anyway, but the United States still does not give up its attempt to intimidate Russia.”
U.S. and Russia exchange stance on Ukraine
Sullivan stated at a White House press conference on the 7th that at the US-Russian leaders’ meeting, Biden reiterated the US’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, emphasizing that Russia’s deployment of troops near the border between Russia and Ukraine is “threatening” . The United States will provide Ukraine with additional defensive equipment and strengthen the NATO allies on the eastern front to deal with the escalation of the conflict.
According to him, Biden also described to Putin that if Russia chooses to “invade” Ukraine, the United States and its Western allies will impose severe sanctions on Russia, including economic measures. The “Beixi-2” natural gas pipeline that Germany and Russia cooperate will also become a lever for the West to exert pressure on Moscow. “If Putin wants to see natural gas sent to Europe through this pipeline, he may not want to risk invading Ukraine.” Sullivan said. .
The Russian side denied the plan to “invade” Ukraine. Ushakov stated that Putin directly told the latter during the talks with Biden that Russia was uncomfortable with Ukraine and NATO’s increase in military power. Putin also mentioned NATO’s presence. The issue of the intensive military activities of the Black Sea countries. The Kremlin stated that the key reason for the current situation so far is that the West has ignored Russia’s biggest concerns, and Russia regards Ukraine’s NATO membership as a “red line” that cannot be trampled on.
Ushakov stated that Putin stated that Russia very much hopes to obtain reliable and legally binding guarantees to rule out the possibility of NATO’s eastward expansion and the deployment of offensive weapon systems in Russia’s neighboring countries. In this regard, Putin and Biden agreed to appoint their official representatives to conduct substantive consultations on these sensitive issues.
The statement issued after the Kremlin official website also stated that the Russian and American presidents stated that in view of the special responsibilities of the two countries in maintaining international security and stability, Russia and the United States will continue to engage in dialogue and necessary contacts. The two presidents also reviewed the alliance relationship between the two countries during World War II, and emphasized that neither party should forget the sacrifices made in the past. The past alliance relationship should become a model for the two sides to establish contact and cooperation today.
Concerns persist in the international community
The US and Ukrainian Ministry of Defense recently announced that more than 94,000 Russian soldiers are gathering near the Russian-Ukrainian border. Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister Oleksi Reznikov even cited relevant intelligence as saying that Russia may be planning to launch a large-scale military offensive against Ukraine at the end of January next year, and US officials have also reached similar conclusions.
Russia has assembled a large number of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border, to some extent, prompting the US government to seek to once again sit at the negotiating table for dialogue with Putin as soon as possible. In April this year, Russia was also accused of strengthening the deployment of land, sea and air forces along the Russian-Uzbek border. The US and Russian leaders subsequently held their first face-to-face talks since 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland in June. However, the crisis did not last long, and news of tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border has recently spread again.
Several satellite photos displayed by The Washington Post on December 3 showed that a large number of Russian troops and weapons and equipment gathered near the border with Ukraine, reminiscent of the military posture before the Crimean crisis in 2014. At that time, Crimea relied on a referendum to “leave Ukraine and join Russia”. The pro-Russian forces in Donbass in eastern Ukraine followed suit. After being resisted by Ukrainian government forces, a bloody military conflict broke out in Donbass.
Regarding the current situation, Russia did not deny sending troops to the border. Ushakov declared on December 7 that the Russian army was only mobilizing within its own territory. Compared with NATO sending troops to Ukraine, it is clear at a glance who is more aggressive. The Russian side emphasized that NATO’s intensive military activities in the Black Sea countries, Ukraine’s determination to step up its accession to NATO, and Ukraine’s strengthening of force and armaments through the West… all of these have sharply increased Russia’s sense of insecurity.
Although many analysts believe that the main reason for the Russian army to suppress Ukraine is to warn the West and NATO, no one dares to rule out the possibility of a Russian army launching a surprise attack on Ukraine. In recent years, Putin has repeatedly emphasized in public statements that Russians and Ukrainians have the same roots and “have always had a common motherland in history.”
If Russia takes risks in eastern Ukraine, what will the West do? This is the main reason why Biden is eager to hold a video summit with Putin this time. Biden said that if the military conflict in Ukraine escalates, the United States will “severe sanctions.” According to the “rumour” in the US media a few hours before the summit, the sanctions may include cutting off Russia’s connection with the SWIFT (World Banking and Financial Telecommunications Association) payment system.
During the Crimean crisis in 2014, the United States had repeatedly planned to adopt this measure to sanction Russia. At the time, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev pointed out that it would be like “declaring war.” However, due to the reservations of some European countries that had relatively close economic and trade relations with Russia at that time, Russia did not encounter a “financial card neck.”
A senior White House official warned before the US-Russian leaders’ summit on December 7 this year that if Russia “invades”, the United States will provide support to the Ukrainian military and meet the requirements of Eastern Europe for the United States to strengthen its military presence. The possibility of direct military counterattack against Russia. This also means that if Putin insists on “taking risks,” the options for US military counterattacks are actually limited.
Mu Xin observed that Biden hoped that Putin would retreat through difficulties, and his remarks were full of “intimidation.” But Mu Xin said: “I think Russia has a strong enough nerve to prepare for this kind of challenge, but does not respond to it.”