Biden warns Putin of economic consequences if Russian aggression continues

President Joe Biden, in a high-stakes virtual meeting Tuesday morning, warned President Vladimir Putin of Russia of economic consequences if he continued to grow a military presence around Ukraine, according to a White House statement.

>> Michael Crowley, Anton Troianovski and Zolan Kanno-YoungsThe New York Times
Published : 8 Dec 2021, 02:35 AM
Updated : 8 Dec 2021, 02:35 AM

The diplomatic effort came as tens of thousands of Russian troops mass along the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an invasion.

“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 US and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” according to the White House statement. “President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy.”

The two began their conversation via video link at 10:07 am, according to the White House, and it ended at 12:08 pm. According to the White House, the two leaders also discussed ransomware and issues related to Iran. Before the call, Biden officials said the leaders would cover nuclear arms control, cybersecurity and Iran’s nuclear program.

“Greetings, Mr President!” Putin said in brief video of the opening moments of the call released by Russian state television.

“Good to see you again,” Biden responded warmly, after what appeared to be a brief connection glitch. “Unfortunately, last time we didn’t get to see one another at the G-20. I am hoping next time we meet, we do it in person.”

The video showed Putin seated at a long wooden desk, with Biden on a large video screen in front of him, and he waved to Biden as the call began. Putin took the call from his residence in Sochi, the Russian resort city on the Black Sea.

After the call ended, Biden was expected to hold a separate call with multiple US allies, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain. The leaders had previously agreed to stay in contact on Russia’s deployment to Ukraine, according to the White House.

The virtual meeting was a crucial test for Biden as he tried to protect a democratic ally whose security US officials have promised to defend and head off a major European security crisis.

Putin has complained that Ukraine poses a threat to Russia through its close military and political ties to the United States and European powers.

But Biden’s options are limited. He has no desire to send U.S. troops into battle on Ukraine’s behalf. Instead, Biden was to use the call to warn Putin of potentially severe economic consequences, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters Monday. The official would not offer details, but analysts say a full-fledged invasion could trigger a U.S. move to cut Russia off from the international financial system, a drastic measure reserved for extreme cases.

It is unclear, however, whether such warnings will deter the Russian president, who has weathered years of Western sanctions over past acts of aggression, including his 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and his longtime support for a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east.

US officials believe that Putin has not decided whether to invade Ukraine. But the United States has disclosed intelligence showing that Russia’s military has developed a war plan that envisions as many as 175,000 troops pouring across Ukraine’s border — an invasion force that Ukraine’s military, despite US-provided equipment and training, would have little ability to stop.

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Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher