Moscow has expressed consternation about the decades-long eastward expansion of NATO, US attempts to pull Ukraine into the alliance and the potential stationing of missiles and other offensive weapons there.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden disagree on a number of important issues, including the US’s continued refusal to recognize Russia’s ‘red line’ security concerns, but the tone of their discussions always remains respectful, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.
“It is mutually respectful, constructive and very businesslike. They are not friends. They still don’t communicate very much,” the presidential spokesman said, speaking to Russian television on Friday. “At the very least, we can say that Putin and Biden are comfortable in speaking to one another, in the sense that they communicate their position, talk about a problem and give a clear answer: yes or no,” Peskov added.
“It’s one thing to speak respectfully – in fact the leaders of great powers cannot speak in another way, this is out of the question, and another to strongly disagree with each other on something. And here of course, unfortunately, one can talk about a very serious discrepancy in conceptual approaches on extremely important issues. It was Putin who spoke about our red lines, about our national interests, while Biden spoke about his unwilligness to recognize red lines,” the Kremlin spokesman noted.
Biden or Trump?
Asked to comment on Putin’s dealings with Biden compared to his predecessor, Donald Trump, Peskov said that the Russian president feels equally comfortable speaking to both men. He added however that under Biden, the channels of communication betwen Moscow and Washington are at least working properly, and in a variety of formats, something that could not be said during Trump’s presidency.
“Don’t forget how many sanctions were imposed [on Russia] under Donald Trump,” Peskov said, adding that it was always worth keeping in mind that Trump is not a professional politician. “He was a phenomenon that burst into American politics, made a lot of noise, a lot of wind, and left politics. Biden is a professional politician who went through all the thorns of US politics from the very bottom to the very top. Therefore, his experience, his professionalism, is also difficult to overestimate,” the spokesman said.
Commenting on the proposed Russian system of security guarantees with the US and NATO, the details of which were made public by Moscow earlier in the day, Peskov said the proposals were designed to protect Russia “from tensions on the European continent” caused by the situation in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry publicized the details of two comprehensive draft agreements on security guarantees between Russia, the United States and NATO on Friday, proposing a long list of steps the two sides could take to ease tensions and step back from the danger of a military conflict. Among them is a request for NATO to halt its expansion into Eastern Europe, and reject Ukraine’s candidacy in the Western alliance.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that Washington has seen the Russian proposals, and was “discussing them with our European allies and partners.” An unnamed White House official told Reuters later in the day that the administration was “prepared to discuss matters of security and strategic concern with Russia” and would “be in touch with the Russian government on next steps soon.”