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Biden to threaten Putin via phone that US ‘ready to respond’ if Russia attacks Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Schultz/White House) | Russian President Vladimir Putin during virtual meetings on March 18, 2021. (Kremlin/Released)
December 29, 2021

On Wednesday, the White House previewed President Joe Biden’s plans for his Thursday phone call with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin. In their preview, the White House said Biden will warn again that the U.S. is ready to respond if Russia invades Ukraine.

A senior administration official told reporters that Biden will “make clear when he speaks with President Putin that “we are prepared for diplomacy and for a diplomatic path forward, but we are also prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further invasion of Ukraine.”

That response to Russia includes the deployment of U.S. troops to the region.

“We have made plans to reinforce NATO’s force posture in Allied states in the event of a further invasion, which would destabilize the security situation in Europe and demand adjustments to NATO forces and capabilities, especially on the eastern flank,” the official said.

Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine for weeks. Last week, Ukrainian defense officials reported that around 265,000 Russian troops are now positioned within 250 miles of the Ukrainian border, including 122,000 troops within 125 miles of the border.

The senior administration official said on Wednesday that the U.S. remains “gravely concerned about the nature of the Russian troop presence [around Ukraine’s border] and the capabilities that they have.”

The official said the U.S., its partners and allies, and Russia have all put their concerns forth and are prepared to discuss them.

“I think both leaders believe that there is genuine value in direct leader-to-leader engagement, that we are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now, given the Russian buildup, and that it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation,” the official added.

Economic sanctions are one possible U.S. response to Russia the Biden administration has revealed.

“We have coordinated with our allies to impose severe sanctions on the Russian economy and financial system, far beyond what was implemented in 2014,” the official said.

“We have made plans to reinforce NATO’s force posture in Allied states in the event of a further invasion, which would destabilize the security situation in Europe and demand adjustments to NATO forces and capabilities, especially on the eastern flank,” the official added. “And we are prepared to provide Ukraine with further assistance to defend its territory and respond to a potential Russian occupation should a further invasion proceed in the coming weeks.”

Biden issued similar warnings for Russia during a Dec. 7 phone call with Putin, during which he warned that U.S. and its allies would work together to bring “strong economic and other measures” against Russia, provide additional defensive material to Ukraine “beyond that which we are already providing” and “fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such escalation.”

Any talks from the U.S. side would be carried out on the principle of “nothing about Ukraine without them,” indicating the U.S. will not issue any decisions or meet any Russian demands about Ukraine without notifying Ukraine and taking their side into account.

Russian has laid out demands in recent weeks, including that the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not admit Ukraine into the alliance. The U.S. has its own list of demands, but won’t publish those publicly, the senior administration official said Wednesday.

“Our view is that we can make most progress actually at the negotiating table, sitting across from one another behind closed doors and in close consultation with our allies and partners,” the official said. “So, we don’t have any current plans to go publish a document or a draft agreement the way that the Russian side has done. We’ll approach this, you know, using our own methods, which are much more focused on dealing directly with the Russian side in the room so that they well understand what our concerns are and what our expectations are in terms of addressing those concerns.”