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Biden Says Further Meetings Planned To Lower Temperature Along Ukraine-Russia Border

By RFE/RL December 09, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden says he hopes to announce a meeting soon between the United States, its major allies in Europe, and Russia for talks on Moscow's concerns about NATO expansion.

Biden said he hoped to announce the meeting by December 10 and said it would involve envoys from at least four major NATO allies and Russia.

The envoys would discuss "the future of Russia's concern relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we could work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front [in Ukraine]," Biden told reporters at the White House.

Amid fears of a possible invasion, Ukrainian officials say more than 90,000 Russian troops have been deployed along its border -- including on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized by force from Ukraine in 2014. Maxar Technologies, a satellite-imaging company, has released photographs that show the Russian troop buildup.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised that Moscow would submit its proposals for a security dialogue with the United States in a few days.

Putin also again denied that Russia is planning to attack Ukraine but said that Moscow can't remain indifferent to NATO's possible expansion to include its neighbor.

The two leaders spoke one day after they met for a two-hour videoconference amid fears of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The White House said Biden will hold a call with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9) to brief them on his call with Putin and "hear their perspectives on the current security situation and underscore the United States' commitment to transatlantic security."

The B9 -- Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- are countries on the eastern edge of NATO.

The White House also reconfirmed that Biden will speak on December 9 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The call with Zelenskiy will take place before the call with the B9.

Biden said he told Putin that Moscow will face "severe economic sanctions" should Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border launch an attack.

"I made it very clear if in fact he invades Ukraine there will be severe consequences, severe consequences -- economic consequences like none he's ever seen or ever have been seen," Biden said.

But Biden also said no U.S. troops would be sent to Ukraine to help defend against a Russian invasion.

"We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies under Article 5. It's a sacred obligation," Biden said. "That obligation does not extend to...Ukraine."

In addition, he said he made it clear that the United States would provide defensive capabilities to Ukraine. He did not specify what that means, but the United States has provided more than $250 billion in arms, weapons, and other military equipment since 2014.

In Moscow, Putin characterized the talks as "very open, substantive, and constructive."

"We have an opportunity to continue the dialogue. This is most important," the Russian president said.

The talks -- their third direct meeting since Biden took office in January -- came amid a buildup of Russian troops near the Ukraine border. Ukrainian officials put the number at just below 100,000, while U.S. intelligence has warned the figure could reach 150,000 in the near future.

It's one of the largest movements of Russian forces toward Ukraine in years outside of regularly scheduled training exercises.

That, plus the absence of more routine notification procedures shared even between adversaries, has set off alarm bells not only in Ukraine but in many NATO countries, particularly those in Eastern Europe.

Zelenskiy called the Putin-Biden talks positive, saying that "the United States has always supported Ukraine, our sovereignty and independence."

"But the most important thing is that now we see a real and personal reaction from President Biden and his personal role in resolving the conflict," Zelenskiy said.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-ukraine -biden-talks-zelenskiy-b9/31600872.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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