The Kremlin has said it is expecting to rapidly begin a “discussion of strategic security on the continent” with the US after high-stakes talks between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Wednesday that the two leaders had agreed to appoint representatives “who will rapidly begin a discussion of this complex, confrontational situation”.
Biden and Putin would speak again once lower-level talks have been held, but it was “impossible to say” when that would be, he said.
Biden and Putin appeared to make little headway during their virtual summit on Tuesday, trading accusations over the Russian military buildup near Ukraine and the potential for new economic sanctions against Moscow.
The US has not indicated it is ready to hold the same negotiations that the Kremlin wants.
But the Kremlin statement indicates that Russia is not yet abandoning talks, while leaving an estimated 100,000 troops within striking distance of Ukraine’s borders.
“#Putin–#Biden video call has been useful,” wrote Dmitry Trenin, the head of the Moscow Carnegie Centre. “Acknowledging each other’s security concerns is key. Reviving channel on [Ukraine] can help avoid misunderstanding … War fears in West will not subside just yet, but jaw jaw is better than war war.”
Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, said “the contact itself serves [as] deterrence and de-escalation,” Reuters reported. “We appreciate the crucial diplomatic engagement of the US in efforts to bring Russia back to the table of negotiations.” Biden is scheduled to speak with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on Thursday.
Russia and the US each gave vague confirmations for further talks, but the exact subject of those talks and when they would be held has remained unclear.
Russia has said it wants “legal guarantees” to limit further eastward expansion of Nato and the placement of missile systems in Ukraine or other countries bordering Russia. That would indicate that Moscow is seeking a new treaty with the alliance, which is likely to anger some members.
Russia has also demanded that Biden compel Ukraine to open direct talks with Russian-backed separatists, a non-starter in Kyiv.
The White House wants Russia to reduce the threat of an invasion as a condition for discussions and Biden has warned Russia of specific sanctions that could result from a new Russian offensive into Ukraine. The US and Ukraine have estimated that Russia could be planning an operation beginning in late January.
The two leaders talked by videoconference for more than two hours, a format Putin enjoyed, Peskov said.
The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: “The discussion between president Biden and president Putin was direct and straightforward. There was a lot of give and take, there was no finger-wagging. But the president was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues.”
After the call, Biden spoke to the leaders of the UK, Germany, France and Italy by conference call. The president had consulted them on Monday, and the White House said they had agreed “to stay in close touch on a coordinated and comprehensive approach in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders”.