The US and its allies are prepared to respond “decisively” should Russia invade Ukraine, President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday amid mounting tensions at the border.
The telephone call between the leaders, which was arranged at Moscow’s request, marked the latest in a string of diplomatic efforts to defuse what has been described as a “moment of crisis” as Russia amasses roughly 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern frontier.
It also preceded negotiations between Washington, Moscow and Nato member states planned for early January, when Russia intends to press for “security guarantees” to limit Nato’s expansion in Europe.
Although Russia’s leader has previously denied any plan to invade Ukraine, Putin last week refused to rule out a military solution and has previously warned that he has “all kinds” of options if his demands are not met.
The US has said that several of Russia’s proposals were not up for negotiation, but it was open to discussing other Kremlin demands as it sought to deter 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 substantive”, with both leaders acknowledging the possibility of “meaningful progress” in some areas but also others where “agreement may be impossible”.
Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov said the Kremlin was “satisfied” with the conversation, calling it “frank, substantive [and] specific”, according to Interfax.
Biden expressed his support for a diplomatic solution but warned of substantial costs and consequences should Russia proceed with its invasion of Ukraine. The costs include economic sanctions as well as providing aid and other assistance to Ukraine so that it can further defend its territory, the official said.
“1–1e made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said in a statement on Thursday. “President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation. ”