This 50 minute call, which notably came at putins request, is their second conversation this month about the escalating tensions at the ukrainian border, where russia has amassed thousands of troops. Its a diplomatic and military standoff thats now come to a crisis, but lets be clear. This is a crisis entirely of russias making just like his illegal annexation of crimea. In 2014, putin is threatening once again to withdraw to redraw the map of europe hes moving russian troops to the border of ukraine for months now, a completely unprovoked military buildup that clearly poses a threat to ukraines sovereignty. Now putin is leveraging the crisis that he created to demand security guarantees from the west, namely he wants ukraine barred from joining nato and once natos further expansion halted, among other things, all of which have already been rejected. But, according to the washington post, analysts warned that putins demands could all just be a pretext for military action. Nevertheless, the u.s is standing firm with its nato allies against putins belligerence, while trying to ease tensions through diplomacy. According to the white house, readout of todays call, president biden urged to de escalate tensions with ukraine and made clear that the united states and its allies and partners will respond decisively if russia further invades ukraine. Now this comes after russia has been ratcheting up tensions to an almost hysterical degree. Earlier this month, russias deputy foreign minister likened the standoff to the cuban missile crisis. Just last week putin launched a hypersonic cruise missile in a blatant attempt to intimidate the west and in a press conference he argued that russia is actually entitled to ukraines territory.
Just so, you understand thats tantamount to britain, saying theyre entitled to america with me. Now is lieutenant colonel alexander vinman, former director for european affairs for the u.s national security council and executive board member of the renew democracy initiative uh. Thank you so much for uh being with me tonight alex, i have to say um again. This is a crisis that vladimir putin is his own making i mean he introduced uh this this crisis um, are putins demands just a pretext, um of seizing more territory from ukraine. Whats your take, so i think, ultimately, uh. I think the discussions around european security and all these assurances that hes looking to extract or guarantees that hes looking to extract either bilaterally from the us or nato and nato amount to maybe a bit of a sideshow. Frankly, his major objective here is to regain control of ukraine, its one of those things that a legacy of the collapse of the soviet union uh in putins own conception of the biggest tragedy in the 20th century and hes. Looking to reverse that hes now uh gathered sufficient strength. He thought he uh successfully. Uh realized that a failed state in ukraine in 2014, when he snatched up seven percent of the territory, millions of people isolated in the russian controlled uh territories, but thats not enough. It turns out that ukraine is actually uh consolidated around the national identity. Uh consolidated around this idea of integrating with europe and now hes looking for an opportunity to do some more damage to pull ukraine back into uh into russias orbit, recognizing that if he doesnt act now, um its only going to get harder yeah.
And you know when zielinski first started sounding the alarm on this. He said that there was a group of russians and ukrainians uh trying to stage a crew um in ukraine, which is interesting. Why you, ukrainians, will be a part of that um? What message did biden need to send today and, and do you think like? Is it wise for biden to kind of help, putin save faith and offer him an off ramp um, or should he double down? You know its uh theres. All these ideas of off ramps and face saving measures are appropriate. I think, frankly, this the call today was a little bit puzzling. It came on relatively short notice as far as we can tell from the public perspective uh just on a day or so notice, right before the the holidays and uh. The topic was ukraine, and this is in light of the fact that within about a week or so a little bit more than a week, the russians and the u.s are going to start um significant cost consultations, uh headed up by senior uh diplomats. So this the reason for this call isnt entirely clear. I mean theres an idea here that hes just checking the block on continued diplomacy and building the case as to why he might need to or putin might need to go conduct. His offensive in ukraine, hes exhausted. All the opportunities, all the options with regards to diplomacy, with regards to what president biden needed to do uh, he just needed to lay down a significant message: uh of decisive actions in response to russian aggression and also leave the door open for diplomacy.
But i i fear thats not going to be enough. I think that uh taking action after the russians invade conduct the largest offensive in you in in ukraine. Since world war ii thats going to be trying to uh close the barn door after the cows have uh left and i think thats thats, we should be doing a lot more now with regard to sending a strong message of what could happen, maybe going so far. Uh, frankly, im supportive of arming the ukrainians to make it uh less palatable for the russians to attack and in so doing, deterring what could end up being a uh catastrophe, unknown uh consequences. So thats interesting that you say: arming the ukrainians, because zielinski i mean hes, a former actor and comedian as im sure you well know: um no shade america elected a reality tv star to his first job in government as president of the united states, but i mean Zelinski, nonetheless, he is placing people from his old comedy troupe in like very senior positions: uh, not people with a lot of foreign policy experience by uh putin, basically threatening um ukraine, hes kind of making the point that they do actually need natos protection and im. I mean is the linsky in a position to defend ukraine uh well lets say that ukraine is a in a far better position to defend itself uh now than it has been at any other point in recent history. Over the past seven and a half um actually closer to eight years, theyve made significant improvements, but all that has done is closed.
The gap somewhat between uh how far ahead the russians were and started on the margins, at least to affect the calculus of what kind of damage the ukrainians can do as the the russians launched their offensive. This is not going to look anything like we. What we saw in 2014, this is going to be a combination of syria, um ukraine and things that we actually havent witnessed in in decades. This will be a massive aerial bombardment, cruise missile strikes and uh, targeting what i think are morale targets, crushing the will of the ukrainian population to uh resist russian aggression, so this is going to be a massive massive uh uh. This is shaping up right now to be a massive military offensive that is going to draw in european powers. The lithuanians and estonians already have agreed to to arm the the um ukrainians. I cant imagine the polls and the romanians are going to be too far behind and we we are going to be in this some way or another uh. So the best we could do now is really send the strong message that this is not what russia wants. Severe punishing sanctions, posture, changes, more us forces in europe and um and really arming the ukrainians are are part of the formula of success that thats a very frightening picture. Um you just painted uh alex just really quickly were out of time, but im just curious. Your thoughts um is any of this relevant to whats happening in the in our country.
Domestically, you know, does putin look at whats happening here and its like yeah americas weak, which of course he had a hand um in stowing a lot of uh discord in this country um, but, looking at what were dealing with, you know withdrawing from afghanistan. Looking at this confluence of things, does he say nows the time, because again, this is his doing a crisis he created. He requested this phone call. Does he look at this through the lens of uss weakening? Now is my time to strike thats exactly right, hes acting on both need. This need to keep ukraine within his sphere of influence, prevent a successful ukraine from materializing that threatens his own regime and also the opportunity, the opportunity of a country, the uh, having a coup attempt on january 6th. I i fear that if we had not had that episode uh, we would probably not be facing these kinds of situations. These kinds of challenges – thats not causality but link there and i think its also ovid. The russians are actually having a hard time with covet right now, its only going to get worse um their their uh sputnik vaccine is not going to be nearly as effective as as a our techno highly advanced vaccines, but there is all sorts of uh weakness that He perceived here and in in europe uh the scene between the europe europeans and the us and the leverage that hes winning with regards to energy.
So this is all kind of uh emboldening him to take action.