Take thank you so much for tuning in president biden and russian leader, vladimir putin, planned to talk by phone today on what the white house calls a range of topics. U.S concern about russias military buildup on ukraines border is, of course, going to be high on that list and theyre called just a few weeks ago. The u.s president warned that russian aggression would be met with unprecedented economic sanctions, so joining me now to discuss. This is dr ariel cohen senior fellow at the atlantic council, dr cohen, always wonderful to speak with you, and you talked with us very recently earlier this month, when the two leaders had their virtual summit and then putin now pressing biden for an additional conversation. What do you make of the somewhat quick timeline here, its highly unusual, that, in the run up to the new years holiday, putin would put pressure on his american counterpart and im just wondering if this is a part of a psychological pressure campaign that russia is undertaking? Amassing a credible military force to back up their diplomatic demands. I call it putins ultimatum and it is dire uh. It is calling for us to basically uh roll um, the film uh 25 years back uh, to go back to 1997. before the peoples of central and eastern europe begged to be included in nato, the czech republic, poland, hungary and then later the baltic states its. Not that we are expanding, they, the countries, the peoples that were enslaved under communism, are coming to us and want our protection, including ukraine, yeah and the kremlin kind of denying any intention of invading ukraine.
But, as we mentioned, were seeing this military buildup on the border. I mean has any of that changed since we last spoke. They they say they pulled back 10 000 troops. There are experts who are arguing that even what they had was not enough. Uh to um undertake a full invasion, but were seeing other signs of putin going back to where russia used to be for the last 500 years. Ive written a book about that its called russian imperialism, development and crisis and its available on amazon for those who those as geeks who like to read about russian imperialism uh but uh, listen ivan the terrible in the late 1500s peter the great in the 1700s catherine. The great in the late 1700s and then the soviet union under lenin and stalin expanded and expanded and enslaved dozens of different people. So, finally, after the collapse of the soviet union, some people became independent, including ukraine and putin, says ukraine. Doesnt exist, theyre, not a real people, theyre part of russia, and they are as we speak now they just announced they are integrating the military of belarus. Another former soviet republic um christian orthodox, like the russians, they are integrating the two militaries they call it a union state, so putins vision for his legacy after he passes, is to leave russia, expanded and enlarged, and he took the first steps with the crimea and before That with abrasion, that is only nominally independent between squeezed between russia and georgia and north asset in the same region, but this is not good.
This is russian imperialism, speaking um in the way we recognize it from history. Well, speaking of that, you mentioned that this is a bit of a power play from putin, im curious what you can tell me about how other european leaders are reacting. How do they feel about putin being able to snag this second call with biden so quickly? Well, the key is germany. Germany is increasing its dependence on russian gas um, its opening the north stream two uh pipeline, giving putin um a huge uh source of income in billions of dollars every year, uh. If germany uh goes ahead with us and stops um north stream to pipeline gas pipeline, um and uh participates in economic sanctions. Financial sanctions disconnects russia from swift, uh bank transaction system. That is a serious threat and in that case, putin may or may not uh decide to invade. If, on the other hand, putin is convinced that the west is split uh that the europeans will put pressure on us to accommodate russia, then all bets are off and i think in the end, my scenario there will be no war. There will be uh u.s concessions, putin will declare victory and go home, and some of these con concessions actually can be negotiated. For example, if both sides decide that intermediate intermediate range missiles are not to be deployed in europe, not on the russian side and not on the u.s side, so this balance of terror is not there.
I think its a good thing, but, on the other hand, if we see if we give up on the territorial integrity and independence of ukraine, if we pull back uh russia, uh nato troops from nato members thats inconceivable. We should not be doing that because putin smelled weakness after we pulled out of afghanistan and what is happening now is the direct consequence of the optics of that horrible pull out. Well, give me dr cohen kind of just a really really like the most basic explanation. Youve ever given in your incredible career on why american voters in particular should care about the outcome of this phone call. I think a lot of people right now here in the u.s are concerned about inflation prices being too high and coveted you know, and so, when they hear about biden spending time on this phone call with putin theyre, maybe a little bit confused about why this is Going to impact them well its to me very simple, the world. The way it is constructed today is very much in favor of the united states, china and russia want to change that world. If they succeed, the world will will be less free were already paying a lot for these disruptions on supply chain. Imagine if the us is squeezing us out of europe and china is squeezing it squeezing us out of asia. We should protect. Excuse me the status quo as it is because the alternative in which russia and china have the upper hand, is much much worse and dr cohen, i mean you mentioned the situation in kabul uh.
We saw such atrocities and civil rights abuses going on. After that. Would the same potentially happen in ukraine? Is that another thing to be concerned? Absolutely the russians have lists of people that want to kill or incarcerate in ukraine if they invade um. There will be people that i personally know and like on those lists. Uh theyre talking about you, know, training the secret police to move in and do the purges as they did uh when stalin took western ukraine and the baltic states back in ‘ and 40. uh it. It will be a disaster for ukraine. Well, dr cohen. In our final minute, together whats, the biggest thing that you anticipate coming out of this phone call, i think, were about 20 minutes away from this phone call happening. What do you expect the big headline to be? I wish that president biden finds strength to stand up to putin that he wont be afraid that he already did his homework and circled the wagons with our european allies and that we need putin to understand that it is not in his in his interest to start Um, what a potential, maybe a disaster in europe – i i kept reading in the days leading to today about what happened in europe in 1914 before world war. One started that both sides didnt want a big war and what happened was a catastrophe were talking about russia and the united states, both nuclear powers, and if that goes out of control, god help us all, dr cohen, as always.