Amid growing tensions, U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke on Tuesday, but it appears that little progress was made — and Biden suffered an awkward moment at the start of the meeting by fumbling with his microphone, to boot.
Prior to the meeting between the two nations, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas slammed Biden for his ineffectual communication with Putin and said Biden effectively “surrendered” to the Russian president.
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Russia has been building up a presence on Ukraine’s border again, and western powers are telling Russia to knock it off, even though Moscow continues to deny that it has any plans to attack.
In response to the fears that Russia is on the brink of launching an invasion, Biden agreed with the leaders of France, Germany and the U.K. that the nations would need to utilize “all the tools at their disposal” to prevent such an occurrence.
So Biden and Putin spoke on a video call Tuesday.
“There were no minced words,” Biden said, The Associated Press reported. “It was polite, but I made it very clear. If in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequences like you’ve never seen. I am absolutely confident he got the message.”
Economic consequences are apparently the only things that Biden threatened Putin with.
One reporter asked the president if it was a possibility that the U.S. would send troops to Ukraine to confront Russia, but Biden said it was not.
“The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia for invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now,” Biden said, according to the AP.
However, Biden’s threats to Moscow of economic retaliation probably sounded insincere to Putin since Biden has heretofore defied Congress’ attempts to place sanctions on Russia, as NBC News reported.
In May, the Biden administration put itself at odds with European allies and even some Democrats when it suspended sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is the natural gas pipeline that stretches from Vyborg in Russia to Lubmin in Germany.
In order to avoid disagreement between Germany and the U.S., Biden waived sanctions against the Russian company that oversaw the pipeline construction, so that the pipeline could be completed. He did this in the face of bipartisan opposition and appeals from the Eastern European governments, NBC reported.
In light of those waived sanctions, Cruz harshly criticized Biden’s position on Russia.
“President Biden is obviously wrong. Joe Biden surrendered to Putin, waived the sanctions that had worked. And that is why we’re facing the prospect of a Russian invasion on Ukraine,” Cruz said.
Putin seems to be standing firm in his stance and not backing down, despite Biden’s emtpy threats.
“But Mr. Putin was not conciliatory. A Kremlin readout of the meeting said that Mr. Putin blamed the tensions on the West, which he said was building up its military capability in and around Ukraine,” The New York Times reported.
Putin’s strongman tactics are famous and everyone knows that he is not easily convinced to back down. Biden’s position of merely threatening economic consequences will likely not be enough to cow the Russian president.
And in light of Biden’s recent decision to waive sanctions on Russian entities to get the pipeline done, there is little chance that Russia will back off of Ukraine at all, leaving Europe to teeter on the edge of instability.
Biden is simply appearing weak, which is never a good move when it comes to negotiating with Russia.
“Let me tell you how that phone call should go,” Cruz said. “Biden should tell Putin the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is dead, that he is going to impose the sanctions that Congress has passed into law.”
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