President Biden expressed cautious optimism after meeting in June with Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting the next three to six months would reveal whether their frank face-to-face discussion in Geneva was yielding progress.
“Did the things we agreed to sit down and try to work out, did it work? Do we — are we closer to a major strategic stability talks and progress?” he said at the time.
Nearly six months later as the two leaders prepare to speak again by videoconference Tuesday, cyberattacks from within Russia appear to have slowed, but tensions are rising over Russia’s ongoing buildup of troops along its border with Ukraine.
Biden, who last spoke with Putin in July, will urge the Russian leader to de-escalate the conflict, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters Monday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“He will make clear that there will be very real costs should Russia choose to proceed, but he will also make clear that there is an effective way forward with respect to diplomacy,” the official said, noting the administration’s familiarity with the “Russian playbook” after its 2014 annexation of Crimea, when Biden was vice president. “They intensified disinformation in an effort to portray Ukraine as the aggressor and use that in an effort to justify what was a pre-planned military attack.”
The official confirmed U.S. intelligence views the mobilization of Russian forces as “consistent with the planning [for] a military escalation, but that “we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision” about following through.