Biden proposes a summit with Putin after Russia called the US an “opponent” of Ukraine

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© Reuters. Snipers of the Ukrainian armed forces aim with their rifles during training in the Donetsk region

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By Humeyra Pamuk and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON / MOSCOW (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to ease tensions sparked by a Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border and proposed a summit of estranged leaders to set a series to address disputes.

The White House and Kremlin only reported on the second conversation between the two since Biden took office in January, after Western officials urged Moscow to stop construction and Russia, in Cold War-like terms, said its “opponent “The US should keep warships far from the Crimea.

Russia captured Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and fighting has increased in recent weeks in eastern Ukraine, where government forces fought against Russia-backed separatists in a seven-year conflict that killed 14,000 people, according to Kiev.

In a token of concern about the tensions spiraling out of control in the Ukraine crisis, Biden called Putin to propose that they meet in a third country, while underscoring US commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine .

“President Biden has also made it clear that in response to Russia’s measures such as cyber intrusions and election tampering, the United States will act decisively to defend its national interests,” the White House said in a statement.

“The president expressed our concern about the sudden build-up of the Russian military in occupied Crimea and on the borders of Ukraine and urged Russia to ease tensions,” it said.

Biden also reiterated the goal of “building a stable and predictable relationship” with Russia, saying a meeting in the coming months could address “the full range of problems” facing the two world powers, the statement said.

The Kremlin, in its report on the appeal, said Biden told Putin he wanted to normalize relations and work together on arms control, Iran’s nuclear program, Afghanistan and climate change. It confirmed that Biden had proposed a high-level meeting but did not specify how the Russian leader reacted.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the White House message during talks with NATO leaders and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister on the crisis in Brussels.

Blinken also said he would talk about Kiev’s ambitions to join NATO one day – although France and Germany have long feared that joining the former Soviet republic into the western alliance would antagonize Russia.

“The United States is our opponent and is doing everything possible to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage,” Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Tuesday.

His remarks suggest that the diplomatic intricacies that the old enemies of the Cold War have generally sought to observe over the past few decades are frayed and that Russia would stand firm against what it considered to be unacceptable U.S. interference in its geographic sphere of influence looks at.

Andrew Weiss, a Russian analyst with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Biden’s exchanges with Putin reflected US concerns about Ukraine and a desire to work with Russia where they may have common interests.

“There is an urgent need to send a direct signal to Putin that what Russia is doing in and around Ukraine is dangerous and destabilizing, even if other parts of the government are trying not to cooperate on issues such as the Iranian nuclear deal, Afghanistan and the climate rule out change and strategic stability. “

US WARSHIPS

Two U.S. warships are slated to arrive in the Black Sea this week in response to what U.S. and NATO officials say the largest mass of Russian forces – with thousands of combat-ready troops – since Moscow captured Crimea from Ukraine.

“We warn the United States that it is better for them to stay away from the Crimea and our Black Sea coast,” said Ryabkov. “It will be for their own good. He called the US operation a provocation to test Russian nerves.

Blinken met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels after the group of seven foreign ministers condemned the inexplicable surge in Russian troop numbers.

In line with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who had previously met Kuleba, Blinken said Moscow’s military actions on Ukraine’s doorstep were “very provocative”.

“Russia must end this military build-up in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference with Kuleba.

Russia has announced that it will move its armed forces at its own discretion, including for defense purposes. Since the annexation of Crimea, it has regularly accused NATO of destabilizing Europe with its troop reinforcements in the Baltic States and Poland.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that Moscow had brought two armies and three paratrooper units near its western borders in the past three weeks and responded to what it called an impending military action by NATO.

Shoigu said on state television that NATO had deployed 40,000 soldiers and 15,000 weapons and equipment near Russia’s borders, mainly in the Black Sea and the Baltic States.

The Western Alliance denies such plans.

Kiev has welcomed Western support, but it falls short of Ukraine’s desire for full membership in NATO.

Kuleba said Kiev wanted a diplomatic solution, but also called for more economic sanctions against Moscow and more military support for Ukraine.

Separately, two diplomats said Stoltenberg would host a video conference with Allied defense and foreign ministers on Wednesday. Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin should be present at NATO headquarters to brief the other 29 allies about Ukraine as well as Afghanistan, the diplomats said.

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