Elizabeth Boyle, Staff
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for a virtual meeting over the course of two hours. It was the first time these leaders have met since they talked in person at the Climate Change Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2021. This meeting was to discuss the increase of Russian military on the Ukrainian Border.
During this call, President Biden made it clear that there would be drastic economic constraints on Russia if the threat continued. Biden said he could see “a very real cost” on Russia’s economy. The U.S. placing enhanced sanctions on Moscow was addressed during the conversation. President Biden was trying to neutralize the threat of another European war during the call. He made it clear that he wants to use diplomacy and conversation to solve this issue with Russia.
Putin raised concerns about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and moving troops near Russia’s border. Putin said NATO is “building up its military potential at our borders.” Putin said he wants “reliable, legally fixed guarantees excluding the expansion of NATO in the eastern direction and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in the states adjacent to Russia.”
President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine. Biden was the sitting vice president in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine by means of taking the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. At that time, the U.S. and European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia were ineffective as Russia successfully took the territory from Ukraine.
In addition to speaking with Putin, the Biden administration has been communicating with Germany about the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and what actions would be appropriate if Russia were to invade Ukraine. Nord Stream 2 is an offshore natural gas line that runs under the Baltic Sea and connects Russia and Germany. It was designed to explicitly bypass Poland and Ukraine, denying those countries of tax revenue and forging a stronger economic bond between Russia and Germany. Nord Stream 2, which was completed in Sept. 2021 but is not yet being used to flow gas from Russia to Germany, is currently supported by the Biden administration after being opposed during the Trump administration. On Dec. 7, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan explicitly said that the U.S. was prepared to use the pipeline as a bargaining chip to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “we’ve consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant severe harm on the Russian Economy.” Psaki said that shutting down Nord Stream 2 is “a threat. You can call that a fact. You can call that preparation. You can call it whatever you want to call it.” This shows that the U.S. is being proactive and examining a full range of diplomatic and economic options, but steering clear of an overt military response to the situation on the Russia-Ukraine border.