Top officials from the United States said they are concerned Russia is attempting to inflame the situation in Ukraine by stationing soldiers along the frontier in preparation for a possible invasion.
President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, may have the exact opposite intention: intensifying the war in Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas area as his best, and possibly only, assurance that Ukraine will not join NATO.
US and Russia on Different Pages
Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided diametrically opposed views of the scenario in eastern Ukraine at a conference in Stockholm on Thursday.
The only threat of war, according to Blinken, was Russian military action. The threat, according to Lavrov, is NATO’s expansionist policies.
They ultimately agreed in the following days, Putin and President Biden shall talk directly. Moscow has long wished to abandon the Franco-German-sponsored Normandy model peace negotiations with Ukraine in preference of a direct conversation with America.
U.S. President Joe Biden will hold a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss U.S. concerns about Russia's military buildup on the Ukraine border, a White House official said https://t.co/KGVglRniv7 pic.twitter.com/t9p4Kbq5Yh
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 4, 2021
Following confirmation of the leadership conversation, some well-placed Russian experts claimed the probability of conflict was fading in favor of new talks.
On Twitter, Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Institute, stated, “It appears that the war concern over Ukraine may now be peaked, having to set the scene for diplomatic negotiations.” Russia’s ambitions for the second track of negotiations could be ill-founded.
Along with his previous threats of harsh retaliation (including “high impact” penalties in the case of an attack), Blinken emphasized the only road to peace is for Russia to return to talks under the Minsk 2 peace agreement, which are part of the Normandy structure.
In the meantime, Putin declined to attend subsequent Normandy summits, even turning down a personal invitation from departing German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Most experts feel the Minsk 2 Pacts are practically dead, as neither Russia nor Ukraine are ready to follow through on their commitments.
On Friday, Biden told journalists he is determined to prevent an attack. “What I’m doing is bringing something together I think to be the most complete, substantial collection of actions. This will make it very, very hard for Putin to go forward and do what folks are frightened he will do.”
President Biden and Russian President Putin to meet over video call on Tuesday as tensions between the 2 nations grow over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border, the White House says. https://t.co/M1AkuERCbJ
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 5, 2021
There is Little Hope the Talks Will Matter
Even if Biden wants to meet with Putin directly (or if the US takes an official position in an enlarged Normandy procedure), there is little Washington could indeed offer to meet Russia’s requirements.
They couldn’t do it without jeopardizing Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity, which is what US NATO allies have promised to protect. After a summit of allied international leaders in Riga, Latvia, on Wednesday, NATO Director General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized this point.
“On when Ukraine is prepared to join NATO, only Ukraine plus 30 NATO allies determine this,” Stoltenberg stated. “Russia does not have a veto. Russia has no voice in the matter and Russia has no authority to attempt to regulate [its] neighbors by establishing a zone of influence.”