Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are set to hold a video conference on Tuesday. With large numbers of Russian troops massing in close proximity to the Ukrainian border and US-Russian tensions ascending rapidly there’s an increasing feeling tomorrow’s talk between the two leaders might be the final chance for the US to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the near future. As discussed the other day, the core of this crisis is NATO’s eastern expansion, which Russia has long considered to be reckless. Putin will enter tomorrow’s digital summit looking for a guarantee from Biden that NATO will not expand into Ukraine. The former Soviet republic is the final straw, in Putin’s view. A failure by the US and NATO to respect Russia’s sphere of influence runs an inherent risk of unleashing a Russian offensive.
Moscow wants a written guarantee that NATO expansion will cease and is applying significant pressure to force Biden and other Western leaders to give in. Washington has made no indication that it would even consider such a move. Doing so would effectively leave Ukraine isolated and at the mercy of Russia. Biden has warned of ‘serious consequences’ if Russia invades. These refer mainly to economic sanctions which would probably not be enough to deter Putin from moving. The present crisis is not centered on economic gain or loss, but on security and influence, namely Russia’s.
Putin is hoping Biden approaches Russia’s concerns in a sincere and competent manner. If this is the case, he believes progress will be made and the threat of a military offensive no longer necessary. Yet for Biden to reach an agreement on limiting further NATO expansion, he’d have to accept the severe consequences such a move would have for NATO and US influence and prestige in Europe and around the world.