Joe Biden held his fifth meeting with Vladimir Putin since taking office earlier this year. The main topic of the virtual summit was the crisis in Ukraine, although the two leaders also discussed other points of common interest.
What emerged most from the almost two-hour conversation were Biden's threats to Putin in the event that Russia continues to escalate tensions on the Ukrainian border. Despite this, the US president began the meeting in a cordial manner. "It's good to see you again. It's a pity we didn't get to see each other at the G20 summit," Biden said. Later, Biden changed the tone of the dialogue, assuring that if Moscow does not cease its actions in Ukraine, Washington and its European partners will respond with 'economic and other measures'.
It would not be the first time that Biden has approved sanctions against Russia. Last April, the Biden administration agreed to sanctions against Moscow for alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election. It also expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the US and imposed restrictions on Russian companies. Putin alluded to these measures, calling for the cancellation of "all existing restrictions on the functioning of diplomatic missions, which could help normalise other aspects of bilateral relations", according to the Russian news agency TASS.
Biden called on his counterpart to reduce "tension and return to diplomacy". Subsequently, Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, stated that "President Biden looked Putin in the eye and said there are things we didn't do in 2014 that we are prepared to do now". He also assured that Washington would "provide more defensive materials" to Kiev. The controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline also featured in the conversation. Sullivan noted that if 'Putin wants to see gas flowing through the pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine'.
The Russian leader, for his part, stressed that Russia should not be given full responsibility for the current crisis. Putin referred to NATO's activities in Ukraine. According to Putin, it is NATO that is undertaking "dangerous attempts" to develop its activity on Ukrainian territory, increasing its military potential on Russia's doorstep, reports Sputnik.
In this regard, Putin called for reliable guarantees that the Alliance will not continue to expand eastwards. "Russia is very interested in receiving reliable and legally binding guarantees excluding NATO's eastward expansion and the stationing of offensive systems in the states bordering Russia," the Russian president said in a statement. He also referred to "Kiev's destructive policy" and "Kiev's provocative actions against the Donbas". After the summit, the Kremlin press office said the talks had been "frank and pragmatic in nature".
The presidents also discussed "the US-Russia strategic stability dialogue" and "regional issues such as Iran", according to the White House. The two also discussed ransomware, a type of cyberattack.
After the video call, Biden spoke with some of his European partners. The conversation included Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Mario Draghi and Boris Johnson. "The leaders underlined their support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the need for Russia to de-escalate tensions and engage in diplomacy. They agreed that their teams will remain in close contact, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a coordinated and comprehensive approach," the White House said in a statement. Biden will call his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodimir Zelensky, on Thursday.