The United States and its allies are ready to respond “decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine, President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday amid growing tensions at the border.
A telephone conversation between the leaders, arranged at Moscow’s request, marked the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts to calm what has been described as a “moment of crisis” as Russia a bunch of about 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.
It also preceded talks between Washington, Moscow and NATO member states scheduled for early January, when Russia intends to seek “security guarantees” to limit NATO’s expansion into Europe.
Although the Russian leader had previously denied any plan to invade Ukraine, Putin did so last week refused to turn off military solution and previously warned that he has “all sorts of” options if his demands are not met.
The U.S. said several of Russia’s proposals were not for negotiation, but was open to discussing other Kremlin demands as it sought to dissuade Moscow from military action.
According to a senior US administration official, the tone of the call, which lasted just under an hour, was “serious and meaningful”, with both leaders acknowledging the possibility of “significant progress” in some areas but also in other areas where the agreement it could have been impossible. “
Aide to Russian President Yury Ushakov said the Kremlin was “satisfied” with the conversation, calling it “honest, meaningful” [and] specific, ”says Interfax.
Biden expressed support for the diplomatic solution, but warned of significant costs and consequences should Russia continue its invasion of Ukraine. Costs include economic sanctions as well as providing assistance and other assistance to Ukraine so it can continue to defend its territory, the official said.
“He has made it clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia continues to attack Ukraine,” Jen Psaki, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement Thursday. “President Biden reiterated that substantial progress in these dialogues can only take place in an environment of de-escalation, not escalation.”
Putin told Biden that comprehensive sanctions would cause a “complete break” in relations between the two countries, Ushakov said, adding that it would be “a colossal mistake that could lead to the most serious consequences”.
The call also comes amid controversy over Russia’s role in Rising gas prices in Europe. Some European officials have accused Russian gas giant Gazprom of withholding additional quantities because it intends to launch the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe – approved by German regulators. on hold.
Gazprom has insisted on meeting all its contractual obligations to deliver gas to Europe and said record prices have killed demand for spot sales.
Russia felt that a call was needed to clarify the positions of both leaders as they are last spoke December 7, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Thursday.
US and Russian officials are scheduled to hold talks on January 10, followed by talks between Russia and NATO on January 12 and a broader meeting between Moscow and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expected on January 13.
Ahead of the January rally, Russia said it wanted to provide “legally binding security guarantees” from the United States, said Maria Zakharova, a foreign ministry spokeswoman – “guarantees that NATO will not continue to expand eastward.”
Putin described the threat of NATO expansion as an existential crisis for Russia and made it clear that he sees the situation in eastern Ukraine as unfinished business.
The country witnessed a separatist uprising backed by Russia in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. The conflict claimed at least 14,000 lives.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s call, Peskov said Russia was “ready for dialogue”, but added that the movement of its armed forces on its soil was the country’s prerogative.
“We will continue to monitor very closely the movement and accumulation of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine and prepare for any decision ultimately made by the Russian president,” a senior US administration official added.