US would respond “decisively” if Russia invades Ukraine, warns Biden Putin

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 two leaders, which was organized at the behest of Moscow, marks 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 precedes the negotiations between Washington, Moscow and NATO member states scheduled for early January, where Russia intends to press 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 solution and previously warned he had “all kinds” of options if his demands were not met. not satisfied.

The United States has said several of Russia’s proposals are not up for negotiation, but is open to discussing other Kremlin demands as it seeks ways 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. The costs include economic sanctions as well as providing aid and other forms of assistance to Ukraine so that it can better defend its territory, the official said.

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

Putin told Biden that sweeping sanctions would cause a “total rupture” in relations between the two countries, Ushakov said, adding that it would be a “colossal mistake which could lead to the most serious consequences”.

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

Gazprom insists it is meeting all its contractual obligations to supply gas to Europe and says record prices have 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 and before negotiations next month, 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, or OSCE, scheduled for January. 13.

Ahead of the January rallies, Russia said it aimed to secure “legally binding security guarantees” from the United States for the country, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Thursday. namely “guarantees that NATO will not continue to expand eastwards”.

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, followed by a conflict that left at least 14,000 dead.

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

“We will continue to monitor very closely the movement and strengthening of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and prepare for any final decision taken by the Russian president,” the senior US administration official added on Thursday.

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