The Day – Biden: “Serious consequences” for Putin if he attacks Ukraine

MOSCOW – US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would face serious economic hardship if he tried to attack Ukraine, but promised potential talks to address concerns from Russia regarding NATO expansion.

Biden said he was “very outspoken” with Putin during their appeal on Tuesday, warning the Russian leader he would pay a heavy price if he invaded Ukraine.

“There were no mince words,” Biden told the White House before leaving for Kansas City. “It was polite, but I was very clear. If it does invade Ukraine, there will be serious consequences, serious consequences. Economic consequences like you have never seen. I have no doubts. that he understood the message.

Asked by reporters if he had ruled out US troops on the ground to stop Russia, Biden said “it’s not on the table,” saying the US obligation to protect NATO allies is they are attacked does not extend to Ukraine, which is not part of the Atlantic military alliance.

“The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia for invading Ukraine is not on the cards at the moment,” Biden said.

At the same time, he said the United States, its allies and Russia could sit down to discuss Moscow’s grievances over NATO enlargement.

“We hope that by Friday we can tell you, tell you that we have meetings at a higher level, not just with ourselves, but with at least four of our main NATO allies, and Russia to discuss the future of Russia’s concern over NATO at large and whether or not we might find accommodations regarding the drop in temperature along the Eastern Front (in Ukraine), “Biden said .

Putin, for his part, promised that Moscow would submit its proposals for a security dialogue with the United States in a few days. He reiterated his denial of attacking Ukraine, but said Moscow could not remain indifferent to a possible extension of NATO to its neighbor.

Putin, who entered Tuesday’s call with Biden seeking Western guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine, countered Western arguments that Russia has no say in the matter. expansion of the alliance by affirming that security in Europe can only be mutual.

“Each country certainly has the right to choose the most acceptable way to ensure its security, but it must be done in a way that does not harm the interests and undermine the security of other countries, by occurrence Russia, “Putin said. “Security must be global and cover everyone equally. “

“We cannot fail to be concerned about the prospect of Ukraine’s accession to NATO, as this will undoubtedly lead to the deployment of military contingents, bases and weapons which would threaten us,” a- he told reporters after talks in Sochi with the visiting Greek Prime Minister. Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

He described the two-hour conversation with Biden as “very open, specific and, I would say, constructive,” adding that he and Biden have agreed to ask experts to lead talks on security in Europe.

“Russia will literally prepare its arguments in a few days, in a week, and we will submit them to the American side for consideration,” he said.

“We are assuming that this time the concerns will be heard,” he said, noting that the West had ignored complaints from Moscow in the past about NATO’s eastward expansion to incorporate the former Soviet allies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics in the Baltic countries. .

Asked on Wednesday whether Russia would attack Ukraine, Putin called the question provocative, saying that “Russia is pursuing a peaceful foreign policy, but it has the right to ensure its security in the medium and long term.”

The leader-to-leader conversation – Biden speaking from the White House situation room, Putin from his residence in Sochi – was one of the most important of Biden’s presidency and came at a perilous time.

US intelligence officials have determined that Russia has moved 70,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and prepared for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied any plans to attack Ukraine, dismissing Western concerns as part of a campaign to smear Russia.

White House officials have made it clear that Biden is not interested in endangering US troops to defend Ukraine. But US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted that Biden said the US will also provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians … and that we will bolster our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities. in response to such an escalation.

Sullivan said the United States believes Putin has yet to make the final decision to invade. Biden was vice president in 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and supported an insurgency in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 14,000 people and is still an active conflict.

Putin’s foreign adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Putin countered Biden’s expressions of concern over the build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine by saying: “You Americans are worried. Russian battalions in Russian territory thousands of miles from the United States, when we are really worried. on our security.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that “it was positive that the US president spoke to the Russian president,” adding that he would comment in detail on Thursday, after his own phone call with Biden.

In the absence of an immediate breakthrough on the Ukrainian issue, the United States stressed the need for diplomacy and de-escalation, while issuing stern threats against Russia regarding the high costs of a military incursion.

Senior U.S. Representative Victoria Nuland warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would also jeopardize a controversial Russia-Germany pipeline known as Nord Stream 2, which is not still operational.

Asked by Welt television if he would be ready to use the pipeline to put pressure on Russia, the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz replied “we have a very clear position: we want the inviolability of the borders to be respected by all” .

“Everyone understands that there would be consequences if this were not the case, but what matters now is to do everything to keep it that way, that they are not violated”, a Scholz said.

Madhani reported from Washington. Geir Moulson in Berlin, Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.

Christi C. Elwood