On December 7, 2021, a video conference was held with the participation of the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation. The event, which attracted the attention of all the world media, however, did not end with the final settlement of the crisis caused by the deployment of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. The talks between the two presidents lasted more than two hours. Obviously, the issue of Ukraine was not the only topic on the agenda of the meeting. However, it was precisely the escalation around Ukraine that the parties emphasized in their statements following the videoconference. A White House statement noted that the United States and its allies would respond with decisive economic and other measures in the event of a military escalation. President Biden reaffirmed support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy.
The American side also stressed that both presidents instructed their teams to continue working towards de-escalation and that the United States will do so in close coordination with allies and partners. The United States demonstrates in every possible way that it acts together with European NATO member states on security issues on the European continent. Before the video conference, Joe Biden held talks with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Britain as part of his shuttle diplomacy. At the same time the President of the United States spoke with Volodymyr Zelenskyy only after a meeting with the President of Russia. Lack of coordination with the Ukrainian side raised concerns about the possible decision of the American leadership to resolve the conflict at the expense of Ukraine. During a video conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the initiative and demanded in the form of an ultimatum legally established guarantees precluding NATO enlargement Eastward, the prospect of Ukraine's membership in the Alliance and the deployment of offensive weapons on the territory of countries neighboring Russia. The President of the United States stated that he could not give such guarantees, as this issue depends on the will of the Ukrainian people and NATO member states. Instead, Biden offered Putin to prepare proposals for a new security system in Europe. If Joseph Biden would have agreed to Putin’s demands, such a move would undermine the Washington Treaty, however, there is possibility that the parties could reach a verbal agreement.
After the talks between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, US Presidential Assistant for National Security Jake Sullivan held a press briefing, during which he revealed some of the details of the talks. According to him, there was no «finger-wagging» but President Biden frankly explained what the consequences would be for Russia in the event of a military invasion of Ukraine. As already mentioned, the States are now ready to do what they were not ready to do in 2014. Sullivan noted some of these measures: sanctions against Nord Stream 2, a ban on actions with Russian sovereign debt in the secondary market, sanctions against major Russian banks and the Russian financial system, which will restrict the conversion of Russian currency, and an increase in military assistance to Ukraine. Along with the threat of appropriate measures against Russia, Joe Biden bluntly stated that the US military will not defend Ukraine. In the event of full-scale aggression, according to the US president, the state will increase its presence in Eastern Europe. The frankness of the American president has in fact removed one of the elements of Russia's deterrence, as the Kremlin could have previously considered NATO's possible intervention in the conflict. It is now clear that in the event of full-scale aggression, Ukraine will remain face to face with Russia and the state can only count on technical assistance. US troops inspected the state of Ukraine's air defense systems in December, so it is likely that the United States is already considering improving Ukraine's ability to defend its own airspace.
As the video summit of Biden and Putin showed, the United States is ready, in coordination with its European allies, to keep Russia from a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, without significant escalation, the Joe Biden administration is not ready to impose new restrictions on Russia and tighten sanctions. This reveals the ambiguity of the current position of the United States towards Russia. On the one hand, the United States is trying to limit the negative influence of Russian policy on the European continent, and on the other, not to be involved in a direct conflict. Therefore, instead of strengthening with the military presence, it is preferable to impose sanctions, but not too strict so that an element of deterrence remains, so the Russian leadership will understand that an aggravation will lead to economic consequences.