The tension between Washington and Moscow has risen over the Russian troop build-up on the border of Eastern European Ukraine. Biden has warned Putin once again that an invasion of that country will not be without consequences. Putin, in turn, is said to have emphasized that severe sanctions will lead to a split with the West.

    Despite those strong words, the Russian leader was satisfied with the conversation, according to Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov. This took place in the run-up to several rounds of summit consultations. Representatives of the US and Russia will meet in Geneva in early January. A few days later, consultations between Russia and NATO followed.

    The positive sounds from the Kremlin ahead of the start of the security talks are seen as an encouraging sign. Russia has already made clear what it hopes to achieve. The Kremlin wants hard security guarantees from Western countries. These should include a commitment that NATO will not expand further east.

    Biden and Putin have agreed to personally interfere in the negotiations. They also keep in constant contact with each other.

    An insider said Biden conveyed the message that the current situation could end in two ways: through diplomatic talks or with dire consequences. In the latter case, according to the American official, a heavier deployment of NATO troops and economic sanctions will probably be chosen.

    Russian adviser Ushakov said imposing sanctions against his country would be “a colossal mistake”. There could be implications for talks on arms control, cybersecurity, climate change and other issues the US wants to discuss with Russia.

    Biden will call Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky on Sunday. He said on Twitter that he was looking forward to the conversation. He wants to talk to Biden about what can be done to protect “peace in Ukraine and the security of Europe.”

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