Biden and Putin hold ‘constructive’ phone call

President Joe Biden spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for almost an hour on Thursday in a “constructive” phone call, agreeing to continue and advance their dialogue ahead of a meeting in Geneva early next year.

Their second call this month came amid growing Western concern over Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine. The crisis has recently deepened as the Kremlin stiffened its demands for increased security guarantees.

According to the White House, Biden told Putin that the United States and its allies would respond decisively if there were an invasion of Ukraine.

“President Biden urged Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.

“He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” she added.

After the meeting, Russian spokesman Yury Ushakov told reporters that they were “satisfied with the contact that took place, with the negotiations, because they were frank, substantive, and specific.”

He added, “I would say that the general direction of the conversation was quite constructive.”

Responding to Biden’s threat of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, Putin said that such a move by the United States could lead to a complete rupture of ties between Moscow and Washington.

“It would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences,” Ushakov said about U.S. sanctions.

The call, which came at Putin’s request, was the second conversation between them this month, with Biden earlier warning Putin of severe consequences if Russian forces were to launch a further incursion into Ukrainian territory.

Washington and Kyiv have accused Russia of amassing about 100,000 troops at Ukraine’s border, possibly in preparation for an invasion. Russia maintains no invasion is planned and that it is free to move its own forces how it pleases within Russian territory.

The two countries have scheduled January 10 to meet in Geneva. Those talks will be led by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Biden and Putin will not be present for those talks.

In Thursday’s call, Putin told Biden that they were interested in results rather than negotiations, and would see how things go after two or three rounds. Ushakov said the talks might lead to a normalization of ties.

The White House said Biden had agreed to a pragmatic and results-driven negotiation.

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