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In Biden-Putin talks, key question is Russia's intent in Ukraine

The two have a daunting list of other differences to air, from Russia's harsh treatment of dissidents to the presence of ransomware hackers on Russian soil to its support for Syria's repressive regime

Published: 06th December 2021 11:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th December 2021 11:08 AM   |  A+A-

Russia President Vladimir Putin

Russia President Vladimir Putin (Photo | AP)

By AFP

 WASHINGTON: When Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet virtually on Tuesday the two presidents will have to negotiate a history of mutual suspicion as they take up the urgent issue of a major Russian military buildup on the Ukraine border.

The key question hanging over the talks -- and the subject of keen debate among analysts and political leaders -- is whether Putin might actually launch a cross-border offensive, or whether he is using the troops to pressure Biden for guarantees ex-Soviet Ukraine will never become a NATO launchpad.

The two have a daunting list of other differences to air, from Russia's harsh treatment of dissidents to the presence of ransomware hackers on Russian soil to Moscow's support for the repressive regime in Syria.

But the magnitude of the Russian buildup near Ukraine -- the Kremlin may be planning an offensive early in 2022 involving up to 175,000 troops, according to US intelligence obtained by the Washington Post and other outlets -- has raised red flags in Washington and across Europe.

Many analysts doubt that Putin would carry through with an invasion -- which would inevitably prompt international condemnation and probably new sanctions -- but at least some take a darker view.  

"Putin has sharply raised the stakes. He is no longer bluffing," said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political consultancy R.Politik Center and a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

"He's ready to take a desperate step," she told AFP on Sunday.



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