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Academic: Biden is trying to figure out what exactly Putin wants

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Joe Biden (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin

American political analyst and academic Kurk Dorsey says US President Joe Biden is trying to figure out what exactly Russian President Vladimir Putin wants out of the situation in Ukraine. 

Dorsey, who is associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and author of The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy, made the remarks in an email interview with Press TV while commenting on a statement of Biden who conferred on Sunday with Ukraine's leader over the alleged Russian troop buildup near its border.

Biden reportedly promised to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the US and allies will act “decisively” if Russia invades the Eastern European country.

“President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement following Biden and Zelenskyy's call.

Zelensky appreciated the US’s “unwavering support” in a tweet after the call and said that “the first international talk of the year” with Biden “proves the special nature of our relations.”

He said, “keeping peace in Europe, preventing further escalation, reforms, deoligarchization” were issues that figured in the conversation.

Commenting to Press TV, Dorsey said, “President Biden and other American leaders are first trying to figure out what exactly President Putin wants out of this situation. Then they are trying to calculate the correct response. Biden has been very clear that the United States will not use force to defend Ukraine, but he has been careful not to commit to any specific policy.”

“The US and its allies never quite figured out a policy to deter Russia in 2008 from invading Georgia or 2014 from invading Ukraine, so there is no obvious path to follow.  Those actions resulted in economic sanctions against Russia, so that is the likely path that Biden will follow,” he said.

“But at the same time, there is not much evidence that sanctions change a nation's policy since the pain of sanctions usually falls on the less powerful and not the leaders,” he added.

“In addition, if a government has declared that a goal is important, it cannot really back down because of economic sanctions. The ongoing sanctions on Russia have not changed Russian policy, and they have not left a lot of options that would be much worse than what Russia faces right now,” he stated.

According to Moscow, Putin warned Biden that any new sanctions against Moscow could totally upset the Russo-American relations.

Putin issued the warning after Biden reiterated American allegations that Russia could "invade" Ukraine, claiming that Washington would impose "devastating" sanctions on Moscow in the event of such incursion, Reuters reported, citing Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov.

"Our president immediately responded [to the sanctions threat] that if the West decides in this or other circumstances to impose these unprecedented sanctions, which have been mentioned, then that could lead to a complete breakdown in ties between our countries," Ushakov said.

Such coercive economic embargo would also work to "cause the most serious damage to relations between Russia and the West," he noted.

The US and its Western allies have cited a Russian military buildup along Ukraine's border for their claims against Russia. Moscow denies harboring any intention of "invading" Ukraine, besides emphasizing that it can move its troops around within its own borders as it sees fit.

Biden has said he made it clear to Putin that Russia would pay "a terrible price" and face devastating economic consequences if it invaded Ukraine.

When asked about the prospect of success of the Geneva talks, set for January 9 and 10, on the Ukraine crisis, Dorsey said, “I think that the main worry heading into the Geneva talks is that Russia has backed itself into a corner.”

“The Russian government has made some very clear demands on NATO and Ukraine about the future of their relationship, but neither NATO nor the Ukrainian government can agree to Moscow's terms,” he said.

“The challenge for all parties to the negotiations will be to find a settlement that does not humiliate Russia while also preserving Ukraine's sovereignty.  I do not see a path for doing both, but I think that it is possible that the Russian government will tell the Russian people that it accomplished its goals of keeping Ukraine from joining NATO, which was not about to happen any time soon anyway,” he stated.


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