Critical Putin-Biden Phone Call About Ukraine Results in Complex Mix of Hope and Fear

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Once again, it is noted that the average American is so hyperpolarized when it comes to politics, that he or she would find it more politically newsworthy to talk about the origins of “Let’s Go Brandon” over the fact that Russia is predicted to soon have 175,000 troops massed on the border of Ukraine, a county that is listed as an “aspiring” NATO member. An “aspiring” member is not protected under Article V of the NATO agreement, but it is certainly not meaningless, either. In a phone call yesterday, it sounds as though President Biden made clear to Vladimir Putin that invading Ukraine would be devastating to Russia’s long-term interests.

This is a tough argument for Biden to make because, from Putin’s perspective, there is nothing more devastating to Russia’s long-term interests than a large functioning democracy right on its doorstep, indeed in a country that shares its cultural heritage. If the average Russian citizen sees Ukraine governing itself and following laws with less corruption, that Russian citizen may wonder why they put up with Putin’s alternative.

According to Politico, some American specialists fear that Putin has made his decision and plans to invade. They believe the phone call was nothing more than an attempt to gather intelligence on Biden, to learn more about where Biden stands:

“I’m concerned that what he is doing is trying to collect intelligence on Biden or setting the groundwork for what he intends to do anyway,” said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. “It’s fraught for him.”

“It is quite possible [Putin] has decided to invade,” she added. “I think Biden had to take the call, but to me it is not necessarily a good sign. Some people have said this might be Putin trying to de-escalate. I am afraid that is not the case, that it is the opposite.”

If Putin wanted to de-escalate he certainly wouldn’t need Biden’s permission, and he would already know that the U.S. would encourage such a move with further overtures advantageous to Russia. Putin and Biden have already spoken by telephone about this very same subject just weeks ago.

It certainly sounds as though Biden’s message could not have been clearer:

“President Biden laid out two aspects of the U.S. approach that will really depend on Russia’s actions in the period ahead,” a senior administration official told reporters after the afternoon call Washington time. “One is a path of diplomacy leading toward a declaration of the situation and the other is a path that is more focused on deterrence, including serious costs and consequences should Russia choose to proceed with a further invasion of Ukraine.”

The official said that includes “adjustments and augmentation of NATO force posture in allied countries” as well as “additional assistance to Ukraine to enable it to further defend itself and its territory.“

Putin detests NATO and the thought of strengthening NATO in countries that used to form the Soviet Eastern Bloc, such as the eastern areas of Germany, Poland, and the Slavic nations must make Putin physically ill. (It was also always “strange” that Trump seemed to dislike NATO as well, was it not? John Bolton predicted that Trump would pull the U.S. out of NATO in a second term, a Putin dream, and something that should very much be considered when thinking about possible Russian incursion into the MAGA movement).

Both countries promised follow-up meetings among deputies and more conversations throughout January, which gives the world an indication as to just how imminent a possible invasion might be. Putin may see Biden’s threats as primarily paper threats, or he may know they are serious. It is impossible to tell.

What is known is that Putin wants to make the world safe for populist Right-Wing dictators and their corruption (Russia’s primary export). Nothing threatens Putin’s agenda more than a large, culturally similar nation right on Russia’s doorstep functioning as a young, prosperous democracy.

Very few Americans appreciate the danger that lies ahead in just the next month. The fact that President Biden spent a great deal of time on the phone with Putin on December 30th demonstrates that the President is most certainly does understand. No doubt, Putin misses Trump.

 



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