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Russian and American Readouts on Biden-Putin Talk Differ Significantly

Dec. 30, 2021 (EIRNS)—Of the several Russian and U.S. official comments on the 50-minute dialogue between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden today, which are reported by Sputnik and by the White House this evening, perhaps the most notable is one of the statements by Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov. “It seems to me that Washington understands Russia’s concerns, although Washington has its own concerns. Yet, President Biden is ready to continue the dialogue with President Putin, and this is what, in fact, our leaders have agreed upon—the dialogue will continue. Moreover, the Presidents, as I have already said, will not only continue to maintain a dialogue, but also push the negotiations that our respective interdepartmental teams will be conducting in Geneva,” Ushakov said.

U.S. readouts chose not to emphasize any such continuing, hands-on negotiation between the Presidents. The customary unnamed “senior administration official” was quoted as saying, “[W]e’re not going to draw conclusions, and there were certainly no declarations as to intentions, from this conversation. But, regardless, our focus is really on actions and on indicators, not on words, at this point.” In introductory remarks, the same official had earlier made the obligatory pledge: “Over the next week to ten days, in advance of these talks, we expect to continue what has been a very intensive period of consultation on the U.S. side with our allies and partners, including providing an account of this conversation to those allies and partners, and in particular, of course, to the government of Ukraine, as well as to NATO Allies and partners.”

The closest U.S. “senior officials” statements came to Ushakov’s was the comment, also from introductory remarks:

“So while this call took place at the government of Russia’s request, it’s consistent with our view that head of state engagements, particularly between these two countries, and particularly going into the intensive period of diplomacy that is to come, not next week but the week after, is appropriate and the best way of moving forward on the very serious situation that we face.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s statement was designated by the “senior official” as the official readout:

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. President Biden urged Russia to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine. He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.”

Sputnik further quoted Ushakov on the Presidents’ direct involvement: “Most notably, the presidents have agreed that negotiations on such an important issue [of security guarantees] for us and for Europe, in general, and the world, will be held in three directions, that is, in Geneva, in Brussels through Russia-NATO and in Vienna through the OSCE. But, as it was noted, the parties will treat the bilateral negotiations with all seriousness, and the process of the Geneva talks will go under the personal supervision and under the personal control of the two presidents.” (Emphasis in Sputnik)

The Kremlin press service made no reference to their longer discussion, but included President Putin’s earlier call to President Biden among his holiday greetings to many national and international leaders:

“In his Christmas and New Year greetings to President of the United States of America Joseph Biden, Vladimir Putin noted that Russia and the United States, as countries bearing a special responsibility for international and regional stability, could and should interact constructively, combining efforts to respond to the numerous challenges and threats facing humanity. ‘I am confident that, following up on our agreements reached during the June summit in Geneva and subsequent meetings, we can move forward and establish an effective Russian-American dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration for each other’s national interests,’ the message says. ‘In a congratulatory message,’ the service said, ‘Putin stressed that “Russia and the United States, bearing a specific responsibility for regional and international security, can and should interact constructively, joining efforts against numerous challenges and threats humanity faces.” ’ ”

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