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Biden threatens Putin during video call on Ukraine

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
December 07, 2021

During a Tuesday video call with Russian President Vladimir, U.S. President Joe Biden threatened the U.S. would respond with “strong economic and other measures” if Russia takes military actions against Ukraine.

According to a White House press release of the call, Biden “voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine” and warned the U.S and its allies would work together to bring “strong economic and other measures” against Russia.

Biden also “reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy.”

Biden issued his warning comments to Putin amid an ongoing, weeks-long Russian military build-up near its border with Ukraine. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is seeing signs of Russian “plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine.”

Reuters reported possible economic responses to Russian aggression against Ukraine may incude restricting investors’ ability to buy Russian debt on the secondary market. The Biden administration could also target the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

CNN also reported an economic “nuclear option” could involve disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international payment system, which is used by banks around the world to process international transactions. Disconnecting Russia from the system would likely require coordination between the U.S. and its allies. German Gref, the chief executive of Russia’s top bank Sberbank, reportedly called the idea “nonsense” and “impossible to execute.”

It is unclear what actions Biden may take beyond economic sanctions against Russia. Last week, Biden said his administration is preparing a “comprehensive and meaningful” plan to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine. Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the U.S. would consult with its international allies and partners before responding to any acts of aggression Russia may carry out against Ukraine.

In a White House press briefing on Tuesday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan would not say whether U.S. troops would deploy to Ukraine in the event of a Russian attack, but said additional troops could be sent to neighboring NATO countries, such as Poland and Romania.

Sullivan said Biden also told Putin the U.S. would also provide additional defensive material to Ukraine “beyond that which we are already providing” and the U.S. would “fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such escalation.”

Sullivan said Biden was “direct and straightforward” with Biden providing a “crystal clear” view of the U.S. stance toward Russia and Ukraine.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said ahead of Tuesday’s call, Reuters reported. “Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines.”

Peskov called on everyone weighing in on the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine to keep “a cool head.”

Around 100,000 Russian troops have gathered near the Ukrainian border in recent weeks. Blinken recently said Russia may be trying to “rehash” its 2014 invasion of Ukrainian territory when it annexed Crimea from Ukrainian control.

“Our concern is that Russia may make a serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” Blinken said during a visit with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba last month.

More recently, Blinken has said Russia’s actions have begun to match those it took in 2014 against Ukraine.

“We’ve seen this playbook before,” Blinken said last week. “In 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then, as now, they significantly increased combat forces near the border. Then, as now, they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify preplanned military action.”

Beyond concerns about Ukraine, the White House reported Biden also discussed the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware attacks and regional issues including Iran.