Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine conflict: Biden, Zelenskyy talk de-escalation with few results

Published : January 28, 2022 17:39 IST

Despite efforts, multiple talks on the crisis in Ukraine have stalled. Photo: Mykola Myakshykov/Avalon|Photoshot/picture alliance

The call comes after Russia accused the U.S. of being unwilling to address its main security concerns.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared a phone call on January 27 in which they discussed de-escalation efforts in Ukraine. "Had a long phone conversation with POTUS,'' Zelensky tweeted. "Discussed recent diplomatic efforts on de-escalation and agreed on joint actions for the future. Thanked President Joe Biden for the ongoing military assistance. Possibilities for financial support to Ukraine were also discussed.''

Biden has been leading attempts to build a united Western front against Russian military pressure on Ukraine, which has angered Moscow by seeking to integrate with the West. Biden "reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine," said a readout from the White House. The statement added that Biden's administration "is exploring additional macroeconomic support to help Ukraine's economy amidst pressure resulting from Russia's military build-up."

The presidents' conversation follows an announcement by Russia stating that it was clear the U.S. was not willing to address its main security concerns in their standoff over Ukraine. It did, however, keep the door open to further dialogue. The US and NATO submitted a written response on January 26 to demands Russia has made for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe since massing its troops near Ukraine, prompting Western fears of an invasion. Following the phone call, Washington requested that the United Nations Security Council meet to discuss the threat Russia posed to Ukraine.

'No rushing to conclusions'

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed time to review the response and would not rush to conclusions, but that U.S. and NATO statements describing Russia's main demands as unacceptable did not leave much room for optimism. "Based on what our [US and NATO] colleagues said yesterday, it's absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents ... we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account," he said. "But we won't rush with our assessments."

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, told DW that from the Kremlin's perspective, NATO's eastward expansion is a cause for concern. "NATO's a military alliance, which more than doubled in 30 years, which started to fight wars, by the way, which was not the case during the Cold War, and it's approaching Russian borders," he said. "You might say Russia is paranoid, but if you just look at this objective situation, I think any military in the world would feel a little bit concerned."

'We don't know if the Russians are playing games'

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was circumspect when asked whether the Biden administration saw a sliver of hope in the Russians saying they would keep communications open despite a lack of optimism. "We don't know if the Russians are playing games on diplomacy," she said. "We hope not."

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said that while the U.S. and its allies prefer a diplomatic solution to tension on the Ukraine-Russia border, they also agreed that in the case of an incursion sanctions on Russia would be severe. "We are unified, unified in our preference for diplomacy. But we are also unified in our resolve that if Moscow rejects our offer of dialogue, the costs must be swift and severe," Nuland said.

Talks have so far been unsuccessful. Envoys from Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany met in Paris on Wednesday to discuss ways to resolve that conflict, reaching no visible progress but agreeing to hold another meeting in two weeks.

lc/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)