President Joe Biden pledged to Russian president Vladimir Putin that the United States and its allies would level strong economic sanctions in the event of military escalation in Ukraine.
“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,” a White House readout said of their video conference on Tuesday.
The readout said that Mr Biden reiterated Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for de-escalation and diplomacy. Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Putin comes as the US President plans his summit for democracy with more than 100 governments, according to a senior administration official.
The Kremlin’s readout called the conflict with Ukraine the “internal Ukrainian crisis”.
“The President of Russia, using specific examples, illustrated the destructive line of Kiev, aimed at the complete dismantling of the Minsk agreements,” a translated version of the readout said.
“Joseph Biden, for his part, emphasized the allegedly ‘threatening’ nature of the movements of troops near the Ukrainian borders and outlined sanctions measures that the United States and its allies would be ready to apply in the event of a further escalation of the situation.”
In response, the readout said that Mr Putin told Mr Biden that responsibility should not be shifted to Russia since NATO was making attempts to “conquer Ukrainian territory” and is building up military potential.
“Therefore, Russia is interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees, excluding expansion of NATO to the eastern direction and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in the states adjacent to Russia.”
Earlier this week, the United States shared intelligence with its EU counterparts hinting that Russia is prepared to invade Ukraine as Russian forces mass along the border of the two countries. The tensions between the two nations are just the latest after Russia annexed Crimea after a Russia-friendly president was driven out by protests in 2014.
“With respect to financial sanctions, we have had intensive discussions with our European partners about what we would do collectively in the event of a major Russian military escalation in Ukraine,” a White House official said. “And we believe that we have a path forward that would involve substantial economic countermeasures by both the Europeans and the United States that would impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy, should they choose to proceed.”
The official said the measures would serve as a deterrent to discourage military action.
“We believe that there is a way forward here that will allow us to send a clear message to Russia that there will be genuine and meaningful and enduring costs to choosing to go forward, should they choose to go forward, with a military escalation in Ukraine.”
Mr Biden spoke to leaders of France, Italy, Germany and Great Britain this week and all countries underscored the importance of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
But the conference got off to a rocky start, as Mr Biden had fumbled with his microphone, which led to Russian state media mocking the situation. The moment led to a break in the tension between the two leaders.