US President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and its European allies would respond with strong economic and other measures. He did not specify them.
Biden held a video call with Putin Tuesday to discuss a range of issues on the U.S.-Russia agenda, but the main topic was Ukraine.
In the video call, Biden expressed concern over Russian military build-ups along its border with Ukraine and called for a de-escalation of tensions and return to diplomacy.
He reiterated the United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Russia has reportedly deployed more than 90,000 troops near its western neighbor’s borders, further straining tense relations between Russia and the US.
Ukrainian authorities have hinted at a possible Russian military attack late next month.
In a media conference to brief about the leaders’ call, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We would provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already providing. And we would fortify our NATO Allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.”
He said the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which is not yet operational, provided leverage for Washington and its allies. “Indeed, it is leverage for the West, because if Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine.”
Citing examples, Sullivan said, “President Biden has shown over the course of the past eight months that he will do what he says he’s going to do in response to Russian actions.”
A the same time, the top White House official said Biden also told President Putin there’s another option: de-escalation and diplomacy.
“The United States and our European allies would engage in a discussion that covers larger strategic issues, including our strategic concerns with Russia and Russia’s strategic concerns,” he told reporters.
Sullivan said the United States is also prepared to support efforts to advance the Minsk Agreement in support of the Normandy Format. This could include a ceasefire and confidence-building measures that helps drive the process forward.
“There was a lot of give-and-take. There was no finger-wagging,” he said about the virtual meeting from miles apart.
The White House said the two leaders tasked their teams to follow up, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a coordinated and comprehensive approach.
Biden and Putin also discussed the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran.
After the call, the U.S. President spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to debrief them about his interaction with the Russian leader and to consult on the way forward.
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