Politics

Biden set to warn Putin in video call: Expect 'substantial' economic punishment if Russia attacks Ukraine

Key Points
  • President Biden will warn Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the U.S. is prepared to impose severe economic countermeasures if Moscow carries out an attack on Ukraine.
  • Ukraine has warned Washington and European allies that Russian troops have amassed along its eastern border.
  • "We've seen this Russian playbook before in 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine," a senior administration official told reporters.
This combination of pictures created on Dec. 06, 2021, shows U.S. President Joe Biden during a signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 18, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a congress of the United Russia party in Moscow, on Dec. 4, 2021.
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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will warn Russian leader Vladimir Putin that the U.S. is prepared to impose severe economic countermeasures if Moscow carries out an attack on Ukraine, a senior administration official told reporters Monday.

The video call, which is set for Tuesday, will happen against a backdrop of amped-up tensions triggered in part by an alarming deployment of Russian troops and defense equipment along the country's border with Ukraine.

"These movements are consistent with the planning that we see underway for a military escalation in Ukraine," said the official, who declined to be named in order to discuss details of the upcoming call between Biden and Putin.

"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," the official said. "We believe that we have a path forward that would involve substantial economic countermeasures by both Europe and the United States that would impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy, should they choose to proceed."

The administration official declined to say whether the U.S. would take direct military action against Russia if there were an invasion.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has warned Washington and European allies that Russian troops have amassed along its eastern border, a development that mimics Moscow's 2014 invasion of Crimea. The annexation of the Black Sea peninsula sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions on Moscow. Shortly after the invasion, a war broke out in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

An unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by Reuters shows Russian military activity on the territory of Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea close to the border with Ukraine.
Reuters

"To be clear, we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision about further military escalation in Ukraine. But we do know that he is putting in place the capacity to engage in such escalation should he decide to do so," the senior Biden administration official said.

"We've seen this Russian playbook before in 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine," the official added.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has dismissed suggestions that Moscow was preparing for an attack on Ukraine and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory.

Ukraine has previously pointed to Russian aggression as justification to accelerate its membership bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the world's most powerful military alliance. Ukraine announced in 2002 that it would seek to join NATO. Moscow has called Ukraine's ambition to join the alliance a "red line."

Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the state of U.S. and Russian relations as "lamentable" and reiterated Moscow's opposition to NATO's expansion.

"The tense situation around Ukraine and NATO close-up to our borders will be discussed. And President Putin's initiative on long-term guarantees of Russia's security. All of these topics will be discussed," Peskov said at a news conference previewing the call.

"Of course, the bilateral relations will be discussed which are still in a lamentable state," he added.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow to deescalate tensions and reiterated that the alliance's commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity "remains unwavering."

"Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation. And every sovereign, independent nation has the right to choose its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. So it is up to Ukraine and 30 allies to decide when Ukraine is ready to join the alliance," Stoltenberg said during a NATO meeting in Riga, Latvia.

"[Russia] has no veto, no right to interfere in that process," Stoltenberg said.

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Sec. of State Blinken warns of severe consequences if Russia invades Ukraine