US will respond “decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine, warns Vladimir Putin’s Joe Biden



The United States and its allies are ready to react “decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine, President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday amid mounting tensions on the border.

The phone call between the leaders, which was organized at the behest of Moscow, marked the latest in a series of diplomatic efforts to defuse what has been described as a “moment of crisis” as Russia rallies around 100,000 soldiers on the eastern border of Ukraine.

It also preceded the negotiations between Washington, Moscow and NATO member states scheduled for early January, when Russia intends to push for “security guarantees” to limit NATO’s expansion in Europe.

Although the Russian leader has previously denied any plans to invade Ukraine, Putin last week refused to rule out a military option and previously warned he has “all kinds” of options if his demands are not met. not satisfied.

The United States has said several of Russia’s proposals are not up for negotiation, but it is open to discussing other Kremlin demands as it seeks to deter Moscow from military action.

According to a senior US administration official, the tone of the appeal, which lasted just under an hour, was “serious and substantial”, with the two leaders acknowledging the possibility of “significant progress” in some areas but also others where “an agreement may be impossible”.

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said the Kremlin was “happy” with the conversation, calling it “frank, substantial [and] specific ”, according to Interfax.

Biden has expressed support for a diplomatic solution, but warned of the substantial costs and consequences if Russia proceeds with its invasion of Ukraine.

“He made it clear that the United States and its allies and partners will react decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement after the call Thursday. . “President Biden reiterated that substantial progress in these dialogues can only occur in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.”

Biden told reporters on Friday that the United States would impose “severe sanctions” if Putin continued to escalate tensions at the border, stressing that he had stressed that Russia could not invade Ukraine. He also warned that the United States would increase its presence in Europe.

During Thursday’s appeal, Putin told Biden that sweeping sanctions would cause a “complete breakdown” in relations between the two countries, Ushakov said, adding that it would be a “colossal mistake that could lead to the most serious consequences. serious “.

The phone call also comes amid controversy over Russia’s role in soaring gas prices in Europe. Some European officials have accused Russian gas giant Gazprom of withholding additional volumes as it aims to launch the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe, whose approval by German regulators is pending.

Gazprom insisted it was fulfilling all its contractual obligations to supply gas to Europe and said record prices had killed demand for spot sales.

Russia said an appeal was needed to clarify the positions of the two leaders since their last meeting on December 7, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

US and Russian officials are due for talks on January 10, followed by talks between Russia and NATO on January 12 and a larger meeting between Moscow and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe , scheduled for January 13.

Biden is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday, White House official says to discuss current border situation and “reaffirm US support for the country’s” sovereignty and territorial integrity ” .

Ahead of the January meetings, Russia said it aimed to secure “legally binding security guarantees from the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, namely “to ensure that the 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 an unfinished business.

The country was the scene of a Russian-backed separatist uprising in 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The conflict has left at least 14,000 dead.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s call, Peskov said Russia was “open to dialogue,” but added that the movement of its armed forces on its soil was the country’s prerogative.

A senior US administration official said: “We will continue to monitor the movement and build-up of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border very closely and prepare for any decision taken by the Russian president. “

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