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Biden threatened Putin with ‘economic consequences like he’s none he’s ever seen’

President Joe Biden on Wednesday revealed he threatened Vladimir Putin with ‘economic consequences like none he’s ever seen’ if the Russian president invades the Ukraine.

‘I was very straightforward. There were no minced words. It was polite, but I made it very clear. If in fact, [Putin] invades Ukraine , there will be severe consequences, economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen being imposed,’ Biden told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House as he departed for a trip to Kansas City.

He ruled out putting US boots on the ground in the Ukraine, saying that ‘is not in the cards right now.

‘That is not on the table. We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under article 5, it’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to NATO, I mean to Ukraine,’ the president said. 

But he did hint the US would shore up its military presence in NATO countries and help the defensive capabilities of the Ukraine. 

‘I indicated I knew he would respond, but beyond that, if in fact, we would probably also be required to reinforce our our presence in NATO countries, particularly those in the eastern front,’ he said. ‘In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well.’

Biden said he was absolutely confident that Putin got the message.  

‘I have absolute confidence he got the message,’ he said. 

He also said the administration hopes to announce by Friday a series of follow up meetings among high level staff of the two countries. 

President Joe Biden revealed he threatened Vladimir Putin with ‘economic consequences like none he’s ever seen’ if Russia invades the Ukraine

In addition to economic consequences, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that also Biden threatened Russia’s gas exports. 

‘There’s no finger wagging but the president was crystal clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues,’ Sullivan said, calling Tuesday’s two-hour conversation with Putin ‘useful.’

The US has taken a strong posture as Russia builds up its troop presence along the US border. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he welcomed Biden’s ‘personal role’ in the negotiations. 

‘In general, I think it is positive that the president of the United States spoke with the president of the Russian Federation,’ Zelensky said at a news conference. ‘The most important thing that we see now is that there is a personal real reaction and personal role of President Biden in resolving this conflict, the war in the east of our state.’

Sullivan said if Russia goes on the attack that NATO partners on the Eastern front such as Poland and Romania, would be understandably concerned and the US would ‘fortify’ its allies along with providing ‘additional defensive material for the Ukrainians.’

‘In the event there’s an escalation, our partners on the eastern front – Romania, Poland, other countries – will be increasingly concerned about the security and territorial integrity of their countries. They will be seeking, we expect, additional capabilities and potentially additional deployments and the United States will be looking to respond positively,’ Sullivan said.

The administration has indicated for the past three days the US would step up its commitment to the NATO alliance in the face of Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. But officials have stopped short of saying the US will put boots on the ground in the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump said in a statement on Tuesday that the Russian president is ‘not worried’ about any threats or warnings from Biden.

‘Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead Soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion worth of Military equipment. He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!’ Trump declared in a statement via his Save America PAC. 

And, in its readout of the two leaders’ call, the Kremlin said that Putin asked Biden for guarantees that NATO would neither expand in an Eastern direction nor deploy ‘offensive strike weapons systems in the states adjacent to Russia.’  

But Sullivan, appearing in the White House briefing room after the leaders’ video chat, made it clear the US planned to respond more forcefully than the Obama administration did in 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.  

‘I will look you into the eye and tell you, as 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,’ Sullivan told reporters. 

He did not offers specifics but said ‘we would prefer to communicate that directly to the Russians, to not negotiate in public, to not telegraph our punches. But we are laying out for the Russians, in some detail, the types of measures that we have in mind.’  

Sullivan also said that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canned, if Putin invaded Ukraine.

‘If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,’ Sullivan said. 

Germany has resisted cancelling the project, but U.S. officials told members of Congress that the incoming German government has an understanding with the U.S. that the natural gas pipeline that connects with Russia could be used as ‘leverage,’ Reuters reported. 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the United States is prepared to deploy more troops to NATO countries if Russia invades Ukraine

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that the United States is prepared to deploy more troops to NATO countries if Russia invades Ukraine

After the call with Putin ended, the White House released its own photo of the virtual conversation

After the call with Putin ended, the White House released its own photo of the virtual conversation

The Russians released a photo of President Biden's secure video call with Vladimir Putin

The Russians released a photo of President Biden’s secure video call with Vladimir Putin

The US imposed some economic sanctions on Russia in 2014 but to limited affect. American officials have said this time the US would apply ‘strong economic measures’ against Russia, including sanctioning its banks and limiting its ability to exchange currency. 

The US was quick to get out its version of the conversation after Russia released video footage of the first few minutes of the call, where Biden was seen waving to Putin and chuckling during what was supposed to be a tense conversation.

But the White House said Biden a tough talking to his Russian counterpart in their two-hour conversation and made it clear any invasion of Ukraine would be met with ‘strong’ economic sanctions and ‘other measures.’

During the video chat, 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 readout of the call.

‘President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,’ the White House noted. There will be follow up conversations on the staff level.  

White House Readout of Biden call with Putin 

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. held a secure video call today with President Vladimir Putin of Russia to discuss a range of issues on the U.S.-Russia agenda. 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. President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy. The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners. The presidents also discussed the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran. 

In the video footage, released by Russian news agencies, Biden is seen experiencing some technical difficulties, apparently forgetting to switch his microphone on. 

‘Greetings Mr. President,’ Putin said to Biden in Russian. 

There was silence on the other end and then Biden was seen leaning forward and fumbling with some buttons.

‘There you go,’ Biden said, suddenly audible. 

‘Hello,’ he added, chuckling and waving to his Russian counterpart. ‘It’s good to see you again.’ 

Biden was also heard telling Putin during another short clip from there chat: ‘We didn’t get to see one another at the G20. I hope the next time we meet we do it in person.’ 

The call started at 10:07 am ET, according to the White House. American press were not allowed to view the conversation. It ended at 12:08 pm the White House said. 

After the call ended, the White House released a photo of Biden in the White House Situation Room. 

In the White House photo, Biden is seen maskless at the head of a table, with a masked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the sidelines. 

Putin was visible on the video screen, where he was on the call from his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. It’s the fourth direct conversation between the two leaders this year, following two calls and one summit in Geneva.   

After the conversation with Putin, Biden spoke with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Mario Minister Draghi of Italy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, according to the White House. 

The European leaders and Biden are closely coordinating on their response to Russia, should it pursue an attack on the Ukraine. 

‘There is agreement about the need to impose strong and significant economic consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the call with European leaders. ‘Obviously, that may look different from country to country.’

President Biden waves to President Putin and told him he hopes they can meet in person next time

President Biden waves to President Putin and told him he hopes they can meet in person next time

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said Putin is 'not worried' about Biden

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said Putin is ‘not worried’ about Biden

Stern words, economic sanctions and a diplomatic boycott: The action Obama took to deter Putin from invading Crimea in 2014

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday the U.S. planned to respond more forcefully than the Obama administration did in 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. 

‘I will look you into the eye and tell you, as 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,’ Sullivan told reporters.

‘In terms of specifics, we would prefer to communicate that directly to the Russians, to not negotiate in public, to not telegraph our punches,’ Sullivan continued. ‘But we are laying out for the Russians, in some detail, the types of measures that we have in mind.’  

In 2014 – when Biden was vice president and Barack Obama sat in the Oval – that administration tried calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and sanctions threats to stop Moscow from annexing the Crimea. 

It didn’t work. 

In February 2014, Russian soldiers, without wearing identifying insignias, took control of strategic positions and infrastructure within the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014

So what action did President Barack Obama take to try and stop it? 

On February 28, Obama released a statement warning Russia not to intervene in Crimea.

He said: ‘Any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe’ and that it would be ‘a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws.’

On 1 March, Obama held a phone conversation with Putin and said that the Russian invasion was a ‘violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity … [and a] breach of international law.’ 

He warned of ‘greater political and economic isolation’ and threatened to withdraw the United States from the 40th G8 summit chaired by Russia.

In March, the Federation Council of the Russian Federation unanimously adopted a resolution to petition Putin to use military force in Ukraine, which he did to annex the Crimea area.

On March 3, the Obama White House announced that the United States would not send a presidential delegation to the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, although the athletes did attend the games.

Later in March, the Obama administration imposed a series of economic sanctions on Russia. 

Crimea, a peninsula along the northern coast of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, was claimed by Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Russia annexed it after a military intervention by pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces. That was followed by a controversial Crimea-wide referendum, illegal under the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions, whose official results showed over 90% support for reunification.

The vote, however, was boycotted by many loyal to Ukraine and declared illegitimate by Western governments and the United Nations.  

Russia formally annexed Crimea on 18 March 2014.

Then, in April, pro-Russia separatist rebels began seizing territory in eastern Ukraine.

In early July, the Ukrainian government launched an offensive against the rebels.

On July 17 a civilian airliner with 298 people on board was shot down over eastern Ukraine, most likely accidentally by the rebels. Ukraine doubled down.

In mid-August Russia escalated from covertly supporting the rebels to overtly invading with Russian military troops. 

On 3 September, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he had reached a ‘permanent ceasefire’ agreement with Russian President Putin. (Zelensky defeated Poroshenko in the 2019 Ukrainian presidential election).

Russia denied a cease fire was signed. There is a still-running separatist war in Ukraine’s east.

Now, U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia has massed about 70,000 troops near its border with Ukraine and the action has resulted in comparisons being made to Moscow’s actions in 2014. 

 

The president will call Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday.  

Tuesday’s call with Putin is one of the biggest tests of Biden’s diplomatic skills to date as he tries to head off a Russian attack that could lead to additional US troops being deployed to Eastern Europe to support NATO allies against an aggressive threat from the Kremlin. 

Putin, meanwhile, has complained that Ukraine poses a threat to Russia because of its relationship with the US and Western Europe. 

Psaki declined to speculate if Putin got the message Biden was sending to back down on Ukraine.

‘We will know if Russia and President Putin decides to invade Ukraine,’ she simply said. 

The Kremlin said the two sides agreed that conversations should continue. 

‘It’s hard to expect any sudden breakthroughs, but the presidents demonstrated their willingness to continue practical work and begin discussing sensitive issues that seriously concern Moscow,’ Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said after the call.  

A Kremlin statement said Putin repeated Moscow’s accusation that Ukraine was behaving provocatively and taking a ‘destructive line’ aimed at dismantling agreements from 2014 and 2015 designed to end a war with Russian-backed separatists.

It said Biden spelt out the possibility of Western sanctions against Russia if the situation escalated and accused Moscow of threatening behavior. Putin responded that ‘it is actually NATO that is making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory and is building up its military potential at our borders.’

‘Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia,’ the Kremlin said.  

Meanwhile, the Ukraine has warned of a ‘bloody massacre’ and five million Ukrainian refugees fleeing into Europe if Russia decides to invade Kiev. 

Psaki said Tuesday after the call that ‘we’re not even at that point right now’ to discuss evacuating Americans from Ukraine. 

Satellite images show increasing numbers of Russian troops massing on the border of Ukraine – as many as 175,000 according to US analysts. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told CNN there would be a ‘really bloody massacre’ if Russia invaded Ukraine and warned that ‘Russian guys also will come back in coffins’.    

Ahead of the conversation, the administration made it clear Biden would take a tough stance with Russia.   

Reservists from Russia's Combat Army Reserve perform firing exercises as part of a training camp at Prudboy firing range near Volgograd, a city in southwest Russia

Reservists from Russia’s Combat Army Reserve perform firing exercises as part of a training camp at Prudboy firing range near Volgograd, a city in southwest Russia

Ukrainian servicemen and military machinery taking part in the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine celebration in Kharkiv on Monday

Ukrainian servicemen and military machinery taking part in the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine celebration in Kharkiv on Monday

Biden and Putin met in Geneva in June - the first meeting of the pair since Biden took over the White House

Biden and Putin met in Geneva in June – the first meeting of the pair since Biden took over the White House

Putin has made preparations to invade Ukraine but it’s unclear he’s made the final decision to do so, a senior administration official said on Monday.

Sullivan said after the call that ‘we still don’t believe that President Putin made a decision. What President Biden did today is lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move.’  

Tuesday’s call comes after a report on Friday suggested that Russia is planning a possible military offensive against Ukraine involving an estimated 175,000 troops that could begin as soon as early 2022.

An unclassified intelligence document, obtained by The Washington Post, showed satellite images of troop and equipment build up around the border with Ukraine. 

Photos taken in June around Yelnya, near the northern border between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, showed empty land. By November 9, five Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) were in place, the photos showed.

In 2014, similar scenes were replicated along the Russian-Ukrainian border near Crimea before Russia seized the strategic port on the Black Sea. 


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