Ukraine Lauds 'Full' U.S. Support Ahead of Joe Biden-Vladimir Putin Call

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that Kyiv has been assured of full American backing ahead of President Joe Biden's planned call with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

Thursday's call is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, according to Russia's state-backed Tass news agency. The conversation between the two presidents will be the second in recent weeks as the U.S. and its NATO allies seek to deter another Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that he had spoken with Secretary of State Antony Blinken about Biden's upcoming conversation with Putin.

"We agreed to continue consultations to reconcile positions and coordinate diplomatic efforts to achieve peace," Zelenskyy wrote. "I was assured of full [U.S.] support for [Ukraine] in countering Russian aggression."

Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council (NSC), said in a statement released Wednesday that the presidents will "discuss a range of topics, including upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia."

"The Biden administration continues to engage in extensive diplomacy with our European allies and partners, consulting and coordinating on a common approach in response to Russia's military build-up on the border with Ukraine," Horne said.

"President Biden has spoken with leaders across Europe, and Biden administration officials have engaged multilaterally with NATO, the EU, and the OSCE. Officials have also held numerous consultations with their counterparts, including those from eastern flank countries bilaterally and in the B9 format as well as Ukraine."

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are deployed along Ukraine's borders, raising fears that the Kremlin will order another invasion to stop Kyiv drifting into the West's orbit. Putin is demanding guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance, a proposal rebuffed by Kyiv, Brussels and Washington, D.C.

A U.S. official told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday that Biden will tell Putin he is "prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further invasion of Ukraine," adding that "we continue to be gravely concerned" by the Russian troops along Ukraine's border.

The White House "would like to see a return of forces to their regular training areas," the official said.

Thursday's call is a precursor to planned talks between Russia, NATO and the U.S. in Geneva in January.

Russian officials attending will continue to push for Ukraine to be excluded from NATO, framing its westward turn—driven in part by Russian invasion and aggression—as proof that the transatlantic alliance is trying to isolate and subjugate Russia.

Putin said last week that it is Russia, not NATO or Ukraine, that needs security guarantees.

"We are not the ones who are threatening someone, we are not the ones who came to the border of the U.S. or the U.K.; they came to us," Putin said in his annual Q&A press conference.

"And now they're saying, 'We will have Ukraine as well.'"

"We have made it absolutely clear that NATO's expansion to the east is unacceptable," Putin said. "What's not clear about it?"

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week that Moscow would take a "hard line" in Geneva. Russia's deputy United Nations envoy, Dmitry Polyanskiy, meanwhile said the talks are "serious" but do not represent a Russian "ultimatum."

"I don't think that our colleagues will get away with some blah blah blah thing," Polyanskiy told reporters. "It's a constructive proposal, but it's the proposal that works for everybody and that is in the interest of everybody."

An unidentified NSC spokesperson told AFP on Monday that the U.S. would not act at Geneva without the support of its allies and partners, including Ukraine.

Some in Kyiv are concerned that the U.S. might sacrifice Ukrainian interests in the hope of thawing relations with Russia, perhaps with one eye on America's looming confrontation with China.

"President Biden's approach on Ukraine has been clear and consistent: unite the alliance behind two tracks—deterrence and diplomacy," the spokesperson said. "We are unified as an alliance on the consequences Russia would face if it moves on Ukraine."

Ukraine volunteers near Kyiv versus Russia December
Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, the military reserve of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, hold wooden rifles as they take part in a military exercise near Kyiv, Ukraine on December 25, 2021. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv has been assured of full American backing ahead of President Joe Biden's planned call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images