Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin prepare for a rhetorical duel this Tuesday 1,200 kilometers away

Joe Biden and Vlaidmir Putin at their last meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2021 (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) (Kevin Lamarque/)

At the time of February 24, the date on which one year has passed since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, symbolic gestures try to ratify positions and give signs of where this war is going, which has already left thousands of dead and whose end is not in sight near.

Joe Biden took the first step with a surprise stopover in kyiv to give new support to Volodimir Zelensky and bring him promises of more weapons this time in his own house, a trip that had been postponed at the beginning of the war for security reasons but that at this moment fulfilled as a double signal: first, he remembered that, despite his attempts, Russia was unable to take the Ukrainian capital, which today has recovered much of the normality of its daily life to the point that the president of the United States could afford a visit. Biden recalled when he spoke by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart as soon as the Russian bombs began to fall on his country: “That dark night a year ago, the world was literally preparing for the fall of kyiv. Maybe even for the end of Ukraine ”but he stressed that“ Putin’s war of conquest is failing ”.

Second, the US president committed to an additional $500 million in military aid, which would include shells for howitzer launchers, anti-tank missiles and air surveillance radars, in addition to the Abrams tanks that are on the way. Of course, Zelensky asked for fighters and other sophisticated weapons because although international aid served to slow down the Russian advance and force it to withdraw, a bigger blow still seems necessary to definitively subdue Putin and force him into the total withdrawal that the Ukrainians dream of.

This Tuesday a close-range dialectical combat will rot, as Biden will speak before the Polish parliament in warsaw while Putin will do the same before the Duma in Moscow.

There is an expectation about what terms they will use to refer to the current situation and the near future.

A year ago, also in Poland, the US president called for a profound change in Moscow that begins with the departure of Putin. “For the love of God, this man cannot remain in power,” he said then, sayings that the spokesmen for the White House had to go out to qualify later to avoid an even greater escalation of a conflict that was already freezing the blood of the world.

Will Biden express himself in similar terms again a year later? Or will he seek to open some door for a negotiated withdrawal from Moscow?

Some 1,200 kilometers from there, Putin will give his first speech to parliament since April last year. A presentation scheduled for the end of 2022 was canceled with the excuse of “scheduling problems”, according to the official version, when only bad news for the Russian hierarch.

Kremlin spokesmen anticipated that the president will speak on various issues of the national situation, but without a doubt the war will be a central issue. In fact, there will be among the special guests to the Duma a significant number of soldiers in the audience.

The expectation, in his case, centers on whether he will use the word again “war” that seemed to escape him at the end of last year or he will continue with the masquerade of the “Special Military Operation” with which the Russian advance on Ukraine was baptized at first. In legal terms, the use of the term “war” would trigger a massive mobilization and other consequences on daily life beyond the partial mobilization that has been carried out up to now and that totaled some 500,000 troops, among a first batch of 350 thousand and a second of 150 thousand. A substantial part of them are already in combat zones and replacing troops that have been fighting for months. They are joined by some 30,000 members of the group of Wagner mercenaries.

But will the Russian hierarch be in a position to demand greater mobilization when in recent months it has only accumulated disagreements and military setbacks and the discontent is huge among the soldiers and the relatives of the fallen? The last call for a reservist caused a stampede of men who fled Russia in order to avoid putting his body in the President’s war effort.

Another point on which the ears of analysts will be attentive is if Putin gives any indication as to what could be the end of this adventure. Will he pose, for example, that if he ends up conquering the zone of the Donbas, where today the bloodiest combats are concentrated, would you then open some peace negotiations?

Western intelligence agencies speculate that Putin could announce this year that the Ukrainian lands he seized become part of the Russian Federation and then decide to deploy nuclear weapons short and medium range in them.

At the operational military level, there is a debate within NATO about the extent to which Russia will be able to carry out a massive and efficient spring offensive, leaving the comfort zone in which it has been in recent months with trench warfare and attrition. The Russian superiority in number of men and artillery pieces gives it an advantage over the Ukraine. But it is also true that Moscow wants to advance before a significant critical mass of tanks, planes and missiles with ranges of more than 150 kilometers arrive at the Ukrainian arsenals.

Keep reading:

Joe Biden visited kyiv, promised more military aid and left a message of support for the Russian invasion: “Ukraine resists, democracy resists”

The head of the Wagner Group demanded more ammunition from the Russian Army and insinuated that its authorities “work for the enemy”