In a phone call with Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden has called on Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine and proposed a summit between the two leaders amid growing concern over a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border.
The president emphasized the United States’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup, the White House said.
“President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with US interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.”
Biden expressed concern about Russia’s military buildup in the Crimea region of Ukraine and on Ukraine’s border, the White House said in a statement.
It said Biden also made clear that the United States will act “firmly” to defend its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference. Biden also proposed holding a summit with Putin in a third country in coming months.
The phone call came hours after Nato’s secretary general called on Russia to halt its military buildup around Ukraine, describing it as “unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning”.
Flanked by Ukraine’s foreign minister at a press conference on Tuesday morning, Nato’s Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had moved thousands of combat troops to Ukraine’s borders in “the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014”.
The head of the western military alliance, addressing Moscow directly, added: “Russia must end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately.”
Moscow said the deployments were a reaction to what it claimed were Nato plans to move troops closer to Russia’s borders in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had flown in for an emergency meeting with Stoltenberg to discuss the crisis, amid mounting concern among Nato members about the military manoeuvres.
Kuleba said Russia had gathered troops in three directions to the “north-east of Ukraine, and Crimea in the south and the Donbas in the east”, and accused Russia of “drastically intensifying its belligerent propaganda, which dehumanises Ukrainians and incites hatred towards Ukraine”.