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Briefing by Aide to the President Yury Ushakov following a telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Joseph Biden

February 12, 2022

Yury Ushakov briefed media representatives on the telephone conversation between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States Joseph Biden.

* * *

Aide to the President Yury Ushakov: Good evening!

A telephone conversation between the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the United States has just concluded. It lasted for just over an hour. The call was as a follow-up of sorts on the December 7 videoconference talks between Russia and the United States, and the December 30 telephone conversation. It was during those conversations that the two leaders began discussing one of the most important issues on the current agenda, namely long-term legally binding security guarantees for the Russian Federation.

Today’s conversation was held, as everyone knows, against the backdrop of an unprecedented push by US official to whip up hysteria over the allegedly imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Incidentally, in requesting that the telephone conversation be held today, instead of on Monday as it was previously scheduled, the US cited the likelihood of this catastrophic scenario.

Similar requests for urgent conversations have been filed by other members of the Biden administration, who talked over the phone with many of their Russian colleagues yesterday and today. It was thus a coordinated effort to pump out hysteria about the “invasion,” which is now at its height.

Coming back to the conversation between the presidents of Russia and the United States, it can be said that the tone was rather balanced and business-like. President Biden even talked about the experience of his predecessors who made every effort during the Cold War to avoid the catastrophe of a serious military conflict between our two nations.

He said that our two great nations were still rivals but that we must take every effort to maintain stability and security in the world. He also stressed that every effort needs to be taken to avoid the worst scenario as concerns the current situation around Ukraine. He said he was a proponent of diplomacy and laid down a whole raft of proposals that he believes reflect many of Russia’s concerns and initiatives that we outlined and relayed to the US and NATO in the draft documents on security guarantees.

I want to note straight away that the Russian President responded by saying that Russia was going to carefully study President Biden’s proposals and would certainly pay due consideration to them. He made clear, however, that these proposals did not really address the central, key elements of Russia’s initiatives either with regards to non-expansion of NATO, or non-deployment of strike weapons systems on Ukrainian territory, or NATO’s return to the positions that existed at the moment of signing the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act. To these items, we have received no meaningful response.

Many of the suggestions that were put forward during the conversation were part of the January 26 response to Russia’s proposals relayed to us by Washington and NATO.

Speaking about the tense situation around Ukraine, Joseph Biden made a mention, as might have been expected, of the possibility of harsh sanctions against Russia, but they were not the focus of his rather lengthy conversation with the Russian leader.

Our President detailed Russia’s principled approaches and explained why the time has come to resolve issues that have a direct bearing on the Russian national security.

The President of Russia presented his overview of the history of relations between the US, NATO and Russia that has led to this crisis. He said, in particular, that the Soviet Union and the United States were certainly adversaries during the Cold War; and that although we were friends of sorts in the 1990s, even then the US and NATO did not pursue a constructive policy towards Russia. That was the time of NATO’s practical expansion of its operations, its admitting new members and moving closer towards Russian borders.

This was followed by the stark worsening of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture in the 2000s, which has had a direct impact on the security of our country.

What else did I want to note? The Russian President went into equally great detail about the Ukrainian Government’s destructive policies aimed at sabotaging the Minsk Agreements, which have been ongoing for the previous eight years. He noted that the West did not exert enough pressure on Kiev to follow through on its commitments under the agreements. The President of Russia also highlighted the dangers of a militarized Ukraine and the on-going injections of cutting-edge weaponry, which the West has been steadfastly involved in and which has been encouraging the Ukrainian military to stage provocations both against Donbass and Crimea.

In light of Ukraine’s doctrinal policy which explicitly states its goal to retake Crimea by force, the hypothetical admission of that country to NATO is fraught with dire consequences, including direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO, at the very least due the US’ recognition of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty as being sacred. This is what our President spoke in detail about during the conversation.

Overall, the presidents agreed that Moscow was going to carefully study the proposals put forward by President Biden and where possible, will take them into consideration in its response to the position documents drafted by the US and NATO. We will make this response known to our partners and members of the general public in the nearest future.

Building on Joseph Biden’s desire for the US-Russia relations to be based on mutual respect, the presidents agreed to continue contacts on various levels on all the issues discussed during the telephone conversation today. I would like to stress once again that overall, the conversation was business-like.

Thank you.

Question: Can you tell us if today’s conversation has shed any light on US motives? If President Biden knew that he was going to talk to Vladimir Putin on the phone, why did he announce a Russian “invasion” on February 16, which shook the entire world?

Is it possible that after the two heads of state have spoken today, President Biden can still set a new date for this “invasion” for tomorrow or the day after? Such a statement will only provoke further concerns globally. How are we supposed to interpret this?

Yury Ushakov: You know very well that tensions have been stoked over our troops’ movements on Russian territory, albeit close to the Ukrainian border, for several months now. I agree completely that the whole situation has reached absurd levels in the past days and hours. But here are the facts: the US is stoking hysteria over our so-called planned Russian “invasion,” giving even the dates of this “invasion,” all the while working jointly with its allies to build up Ukraine’s “military muscle.” Significant funds are being allocated to modernize the Ukrainian armed forces, and more military instructors are being sent there. So, the “invasion” chorus is a backdrop to create opportunities for possible provocations by the Ukrainian military.

This is our view of the situation.

Question: Is it possible the US will continue to act like this?

Yury Ushakov: I don’t know. It’s the US that chooses to go down this road. We have made our thoughts known and have said repeatedly that we can’t understand why mass media have been feeding false narratives about Russia’s intentions.

Question: Did the presidents discuss the incident with the US submarine in Russia’s territorial waters?

Yury Ushakov: No, they didn’t. We are aware of the incident, and necessary actions are being taken by the Defence Ministry, but the subject was not raised during the conversation between the two presidents.

Question: Can you tell us if Russia made clear what it would do in the event Ukraine’s Government decided to provoke conflict in Donbass? What will Russia do then?

Yury Ushakov: We emphasised, firstly, that we were going to consider the proposals put forward by President Biden today, even though they overlap to a great deal with the US and NATO responses we have already received. We also indicated that an interdepartmental discussion of possible responses was nearly finished. The results will be made public in the near future.

Question: The US has already shared its views on the telephone call. In particular, they continue to claim that they still don’t know if any actions follow, and what President Putin’s plans are for a potential “invasion” of Ukraine.

Yury Ushakov: To be honest, I haven’t seen the American interpretation of the call yet. However, I have shared with you what we had to say on the subject.

Question: Are there any discussions scheduled in the coming weeks?

Yury Ushakov: Like I said, the presidents agreed that discussions on various issues should continue. In particular we will discuss the issues that Joseph Biden raised today. Naturally, we will give priority to addressing those concerns that were clearly and publicly stated in the two draft documents.

Thank you.

February 12, 2022