Even before the White House officially announced the virtual meeting of the presidents of America and Russia, Joe Biden sent a message to Vladimir Putin: His government had long been aware of Russian actions.

He expects to have a long talk with Putin, he said, before leaving for his weekend seat at Camp David on Friday evening.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

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When asked whether he would accept its “red line” that Ukraine should not become a member of NATO, Biden said that he would not accept anyone's red lines. He left open exactly what the Kremlin is asking for. Because Moscow's demands go beyond Kiev's perspectives: They include an exclusion of any new NATO eastward expansion and a renunciation of the stationing of weapons systems in neighboring Russian countries.

On Saturday, the White House announced that Biden and Putin would have a confidential video call on Tuesday and address a broader range of topics: "strategic stability", i.e. questions of arms control, cybersecurity, an issue whose urgency Biden already announced at the summit Putin highlighted “regional issues” in Geneva last summer.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president would reiterate his concerns about Russia's military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm that the United States supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Initiatives to "make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin"

Biden himself had previously stated more clearly: “What I am doing now is to put together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and significant bundle of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr Putin to move forward and do what people are concerned about that he could do. ”Foreign Minister Antony Blinken had previously spoken of economic sanctions during a trip to Europe that also included a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Biden seemed to go beyond that. The point is to increase the cost of another Russian intervention.

Even before the meeting with Lavrov in Stockholm, during the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Riga, Blinken had spoken of the fact that Washington had evidence of Moscow's plans to take “significant aggressive moves against Ukraine”.

Washington does not know whether Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine.

But one knows that he enables his armed forces to do this.

It is now clear what the Foreign Minister was referring to.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported, referring to intelligence information, that the Kremlin's plan included a multi-front attack involving up to 175,000 soldiers;

this could take place at the beginning of next year.

Ukraine fears escalation at the end of January

The newspaper quoted an anonymous government representative and referred to released findings by the intelligence services, including the satellite images. These pictures showed troop gatherings in four locations. Currently 50 combat battalions as well as heavy equipment, tanks and artillery are deployed. The plan provides for an expansion to up to 100 combat battalions. Experts state that the Ukrainian armed forces would have little to counter such an attack. The Pentagon refused to comment on the report. However, the Ministry of Defense was “deeply concerned”.

Ukraine fears an imminent attack by Russia: "The most likely time for escalation readiness is at the end of January," said Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksi Resnikov. According to Kiev estimates, Russia has currently concentrated more than 94,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border. The American side is currently assuming 70,000 soldiers. In the past week, Blinken had spoken of 2014 with a view to knowing the Kremlin's script.

At that time, after the overthrow of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow annexed Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, where it supported separatists. Blinken said last week that Moscow was planning to destabilize Ukraine from within, as it was then, and to take military action against the country. He therefore also warned Kiev not to provide Moscow with an excuse for intervention. At the same time, the White House made it clear that the provocations came from Moscow - and not from Kiev or Washington. As for Putin's red line, Psaki said it was NATO members who decided who would join the alliance - not Russia. This is how the procedure has always been. And it will stay that way.

After the foreign policy debacle in Afghanistan, Biden faces a test by Putin.

Moscow disrupts Washington's new China strategy: Putin once dismissed Barack Obama's remark that Russia is merely a regional power as disrespect.

Now he is sending the message to Biden: If Biden believes that only China is a strategic challenge for America, then he is mistaken.

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