President Biden called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday to discuss concerns about a possible invasion by Russia.
Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for two hours Tuesday and threatened economic consequences, but told reporters Wednesday that US troops won’t be sent to Ukraine to deter potential Russian adventurism.
Russia has massed thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders as part of what US officials fear could be a prelude to an invasion as soon as early next year.
Biden’s call to Zelensky was scheduled to start around 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Biden said Wednesday he hopes to announce that new high-level talks over the crisis would take place involving America’s European allies.
“We hope by Friday we’re going to be able to say … we’re having meetings at a higher level, not just with us, but what’s the — [at] least four of our major NATO allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia’s concerns relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we could work out any accommodation as it relates to bringing down the temperature,” he said.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that administration officials suggested that the US will press Ukraine to cede some autonomy to parts of eastern Ukraine that are currently controlled by Russia-backed separatists who rebelled against the Kiev government in 2014. An undefined “special status” for those areas was laid out in an ambiguous, European-brokered peace deal in 2015, but it never took hold.
Republicans condemned reports of the move by the White House, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) accusing the administration of “appeasement” of Russia.
“Joe Biden and Biden-Harris officials are pushing Ukraine to give up territory to Putin in exchange for promises that he won’t invade even further, for now,” Cruz tweeted. “It’s the literal definition of appeasement. Utterly disgraceful.”
Biden was vice president during the 2014 Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea and the beginning of a civil war waged by two pro-Russia breakaway republics.
Republicans also have blasted Biden for allowing Russia to complete construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is nearly operational. The White House waived sanctions against the project in May, with Biden citing the fact that the pipeline was “almost completely finished.”
Nord Stream 2 will allow Russia to send natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and depriving the Kiev government of lucrative gas transfer fees. Critics say it will enhance Moscow’s leverage over Ukraine.
With Post wires