WASHINGTON (Fwrd Axis) — President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday the United States will have a ‘strong response’, including pursuing “strong economic and other measures” if Russia decides to invade Ukraine.
Biden and Putin spoke virtually for over two hours on Tuesday morning. Biden called for “de-escalation” and doubled down on the United States’ support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, according to a readout from the White House.
“President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” the White House said in a statement.
Administration officials believe Russia could engage in military action after Putin moved 90,000 troops to the Ukraine border but the Russian President has been unclear about his plans moving forward.
“We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision. What President Biden did today was lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Biden is likely facing his biggest foreign policy test since that chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan back in August, which saw the Taliban regaining control of the country. The President saw his approval ratings slide and was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for how the withdrawal took place.
The President has been vocal about China, not Russia, as America’s biggest national security threat and has been increasing his administration’s focus putting a foothold on China’s economic power as well as a military power.
“President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now.,” said Sullivan. “Now in terms of the specifics, we would prefer to communicate that directly to the Russians, to not negotiate in public, not telegraph our punches, but we are laying out to the Russians in some detail the types of measures that we have in mind.”
Despite a focus on China, Biden has been zeroing in on Russia as well following cyberattacks linked to Russian hackers. The virtual conversation is the first between the two leaders since their in-person meeting during a June summit in Geneva.
Following his call with Putin, Biden will speak to the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom about the conversation, an administration official said.
“He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures,” said Sullivan. “We would provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already providing, and we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.”
The Kremlin released their own version of the call, saying Biden “emphasized the allegedly ‘threatening’ nature of the movements of Russian troops near the Ukrainian borders”.
The Kremlin added Putin responded by alleging that NATO is attempting “to conquer Ukrainian territory. However, the White House said Biden did not give up or concede anything regarding Ukraine and NATO.
“Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees excluding the expansion of NATO in the eastern direction and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in the states adjacent to Russia,” the Kremlin said.
The Biden administration has declined to say whether the president would warn Putin about military action against Russia if there is an invasion.