Amid rising tensions in eastern Ukraine, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin are meeting virtually to try to find solutions that can halt the crisis and avoid a major escalation. The Kremlin expects the talks to be "long and substantial", presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced at his daily press conference. Peskov admits, however, that it will be "difficult to expect progress from these talks". On the other hand, according to his US counterpart, Jen Psaki, Biden will focus the meeting on "Russian military activities on the Ukrainian border". He will also "reaffirm US support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity". The US president also assured that he would not accept "red lines from anyone".
This summit is the fifth between the two since Biden arrived at the White House earlier this year. In addition to the Russian-Ukrainian border disputes, they could also discuss regional security, including the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and Libya, according to the Russian news agency TASS. The video call, according to US media reports, will begin at 10 a.m. Washington time, 6 p.m. Moscow time.
Prior to this virtual meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held telephone conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, so the conclusions drawn by the two will also be part of the dialogue between Biden and Putin.
This is not the first time that Washington has been presented as a mediator in this conflict. Last Thursday, Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm, where they discussed the Ukrainian crisis. The Secretary of State urged Russia to "withdraw its forces" as an imminent attack would have "serious consequences", according to Europa Press. For his part, Lavrov has rejected NATO's increased military presence in eastern Ukraine, and, like his counterpart, spoke of "grave consequences" if they ignore their "legitimate concerns" and Ukraine ends up in the middle of "US political games", according to the news agency.
Next April the Dombass conflict will be eight years old. However, tension in the region bordering Russia has risen sharply in recent weeks. Ukraine has accused Moscow of planning an invasion and even orchestrating a coup against the Zelensky government. Meanwhile, clashes between the Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists continue. According to the AFP news agency, the number of victims in this dispute has increased compared to last year, while 50 deaths were reported in 2020, in 2021 the figure has risen to 61.
In this context, both sides have denounced an increase in the number of troops on the border. While Ukraine claims that Russia has transferred some 115,000 troops to the area, the Russian foreign ministry said that Kiev had deployed 125,000 troops in the east.
The US, like NATO, stands firmly behind Ukraine in the conflict. Washington has also warned of a Russian troop build-up on the border. It has also stoked Kiev's fears by warning of a possible Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. Moscow has denied these accusations, noting that "the United States is trying to escalate the conflict between Ukraine and Russia", according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Peskov has also rejected Washington's warnings, pointing to "aggressive rhetoric" from the US and Europe.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also commented on the US position. "They need a reason to hit Russia, that's why they make these accusations," he said. He called NATO's plans in the region "unacceptable".
Joe Biden's administration is becoming heavily involved in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict while expressing its rejection of the policies developed by the Kremlin. The Cold War, though over, is still very much alive in the US mindset. Indeed, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin recently referred to Russia as the 'Soviet Union' in discussing the current situation. "Everything we do we do as part of an international community. However, the best case is that we don't see a Soviet Union incursion into Ukraine," Austin said during a visit to South Korea.
Although this historic era has officially ended, tensions between the US and Russia have always been present, and the current crisis in Ukraine demonstrates this. Moreover, since Biden took office, relations have deteriorated. In this regard, Washington has singled out Moscow as one of its main enemies along with China.