US President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that Russia would face significant economic and military countermeasures if Mr. Putin orders a wider invasion of Ukraine.
In a two-hour video summit sparked by Russia’s continued military build-up around Ukraine’s borders, Biden told Putin that the United States is ready to significantly step up economic sanctions against Moscow in the event of a new Russian incursion.
According to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Biden also warned the Russian leader that the United States will send more weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself in the event of an attack, while l NATO’s military alliance could respond by moving additional troops. in frontline states like Poland, Romania and the Baltic States.
No new deals were announced following the video call. Some 100,000 Russian troops remain a short drive from Ukraine’s borders, supported by hundreds of tanks and warplanes, and new units continue to arrive. There is no indication that Mr Biden responded to any of Mr Putin’s requests regarding the political future of Ukraine.
A Kremlin statement said Putin called for “reliable and legally secured guarantees” during the appeal that would prevent Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and prevent the alliance from deploying ” offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia ”. The Kremlin says its military build-up is needed as the Ukrainian government plans to take back by force the breakaway Donbass region, which is under the control of a Moscow-backed militia. Ukraine has repeatedly dismissed the accusation as propaganda.
Why tensions are mounting on the Russian-Ukrainian border
NATO has deployed forward battle groups in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia since Russia’s 2014 decision to capture and annex the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. Some 540 Canadian troops are currently leading the NATO mission in Latvia.
Speaking to reporters after the video call, Mr Sullivan referred to a hypothetical scenario in which NATO members on the alliance’s eastern flank requested additional support following a Russian invasion of the ‘Ukraine “and the United States will seek to respond positively”.
Mr Sullivan said the United States still hopes to deter Mr Putin from using military force against his neighbor again. He said the White House does not believe Mr. Putin has yet made a decision regarding the invasion of Ukraine. He said Mr. Biden “told President Putin there was another option: de-escalation and diplomacy.”
Mr. Biden, he said, had proposed a dialogue that would cover “broader strategic issues, including our strategic concerns with Russia and Russia’s strategic concerns.” He said the United States and Russia had always had direct talks, even during the Cold War, and could do so again, “provided we operate in a context of de-escalation, rather than escalation.”
The most important development of the online summit appears to be that the United States has now made an explicit link between Mr Putin’s next actions in Ukraine and the future of the US $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Reuters, citing an anonymous congressional aide, reported that the United States had reached an agreement with Germany to shut down the controversial pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion.
The pipeline, which is seen as a favorite of Mr Putin’s project, would bring Russian natural gas directly to Western Europe, thus eliminating Ukraine’s lucrative role as a transit country.
Construction, which began in 2016, was completed earlier this year, but the opening of the pipeline was delayed after the German energy regulator suspended the approval process last month. The project had the backing of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is stepping down this week after 16 years in power. The future of the pipeline is considered less certain under the new coalition government led by Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats.
Mr Sullivan said the future of Nord Stream 2 was “discussed in depth” during the video call. “If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flowing through this pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,” he said.
Mr Sullivan declined to discuss details of other potential economic measures, but said the United States was prepared to go much further than the sanctions it applied following the seizure of Crimea. by Russia seven years ago. “What we did not do in 2014 we are ready to do now,” he said. A step that has been rumored for a long time could see Russia excluded from the international banking system SWIFT.
The Kremlin made no mention of Nord Stream 2 or SWIFT in its own statement on the call. According to the Kremlin reading, Mr Putin told Mr Biden that it was NATO, and not Russia, that was exacerbating tensions by “strengthening its military potential at our borders”.
The two leaders also discussed the 2015 Minsk Accords, which were supposed to bring peace to Donbass, but which Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of not implementing. Mr Sullivan said the United States would support a new ceasefire and “confidence-building measures”, while the Kremlin reading indicated that Mr Putin had presented Mr Biden with “specific examples” of the how Ukraine was undermining the Minsk accord.
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