In a high-stakes call, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. would impose “strong economic and other measures” in the event of a potential invasion of Ukraine, while the Kremlin demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand further eastward, ending in neither side reporting any substantial progress occuring in Tuesday’s summit.
The call began at 10:07 am Eastern, according to the White House pool report, and ended two hours and one minute later at 12:08 pm Eastern.
According to the White House readout of the secure video call, 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.”
Biden also “reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” the readout noted.
“The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners,” the White House added.
The White House also tweeted a photo of Biden in the White House Situation Room sitting alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior director for Russia and Central Asia Eric Green during the video call.
“POTUS held a secure video call with President Putin of Russia today to discuss a range of topics in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including our concerns about Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine, cyber, and regional issues,” the White House tweeted.
Russia, in their summary of the virtual call, rebuffed Biden’s concerns about the “allegedly threatening nature of the movements of Russian troops near the Ukrainian borders,” telling his American counterpart that it is the West who were raising military tensions in the region by increasing its “military potential near our borders.”
The Kremlin also said that Putin repeated his demand for “security guarantees” for Russia regarding Eastern Europe, including that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO and Biden agreed to discuss the guarantees sought by Putin further.
Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian state media after Tuesday’s call that Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was never mentioned at all during the conversation between Putin and Biden, and despite the seriousness of the summit, the two leaders instead cracked jokes.
“It was rather honest and had a businesslike character,” Ushakov said. “But at the same time, there was also room for jokes and for exchanges of compliments — that is, it was a normal conversation between two serious leaders when serious questions are discussed.”
The call between the two adversaries represented a culmination of repeated warnings by Washington to Moscow over international fears of a potential military invasion of Ukraine. On Friday, Washington Post reported that the U.S. intelligence has detected the Kremlin plan “based in part on satellite images that “show newly arrived units at various locations along the Ukrainian border.”
Based on the unclassified U.S. intelligence document showed Russia’s large-scale troop buildup of nearly 175,000 troops at the Ukraine border. The intel determined the build resembled a Kremlin playbook similar to 2014 when they invaded Ukraine and seized the Crimean peninsula. Russia has denied harboring any intention to invade Ukraine and has said its troop posture is defensive.
Biden at that time was vice president when Russian troops marched into the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and annexed the territory from Ukraine. As vice president, Biden was heavily involved in U.S. relations with Ukraine and wielded U.S foreign aid in a purported pressure to clean up corruption. The President’s son, Hunter Biden, at the same time, joined the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, for which he was reportedly paid $1 million yearly despite having no lobbying experience on energy or gas.
Ahead of the Biden-Putin faceoff, senior White House official told reporters that the President plans to lay out a range of options that he is expected to threaten Putin with, including a package of economic sanctions with European partners that would impose “significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy.” The threat, the official said, is in hopes that it would deter further Russian aggression towards Ukraine and ratcheting down tensions.
Biden is expected to convene a separate call following his virtual summit with multiple U.S. allies, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain. The call is a continuation of a conversation the leaders had on Monday in advance of Biden’s highly anticipated call with Putin.
Biden is also expected to speak with Congressional to discuss “ways in which the administration and the Congress can work together on a bipartisan basis to stand up for American interests and values and stand behind our friends and partners.” On Thursday, Biden is scheduled to call Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Tuesday virtual summit is the fourth direct conversation between Biden and Putin has conducted in less than a year, with two previously conducted over the phone and a face-to-face summit in Geneva in June.
The standoff on the Ukrainian border has presented Biden with another biggest foreign policy test of his presidency following his hastily and chaotic U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, which resulted in the Taliban regaining control of the country. Since then, Biden’s approval ratings sank in the aftermath of the Afghanistan debacle.