Biden warns Putin that Russia will face “heavy sanctions” if Ukraine escalates

United States President Joe Biden has “Let know” to his counterpart Vladimir Putin that Russia would expose itself to “Strong sanctions, among other economic ones”, in case of military escalation in Ukraine, during the virtual summit between the two heads of state, Tuesday, December 7, announced the White House in a statement.

Mr. Biden also “Expressed deep concern” of the United States and their allies in the face of the increase in the number of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, according to the White House, which specifies that the two presidents also mentioned cybersecurity and their “Joint work on regional subjects such as Iran”.

“The two presidents have instructed their teams to follow up (the exchange) and the United States will do so in close coordination with their allies and partners”, again stressed the US executive. The Kremlin for its part had not yet delivered its version of the interview between the American and Russian presidents, which lasted two hours.

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Phone meeting with Macron and Merkel

Mr. Putin was in his residence in Sochi, a seaside resort by the Black Sea. Mr. Biden participated in the conversation from the Situation Room of the White House, an ultra-secure room from where the US executive controls sensitive military interventions.

Mr Biden was then due to phone Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Ministers Mario Draghi and British Prime Ministers Boris Johnson, the White House reported. The US executive recalls that the president spoke to these same allies on Monday and agreed to stay “In close contact”, according to a statement.

Mr. Biden will also, in the coming days, report on the conversation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the US executive announced on Monday.

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The hypothesis of an attack not completely ruled out

The hope of the US president to establish a relationship « stable » and “Predictable” with Russia, expressed in June during a summit between the two men in Geneva, seems to have lived

Washington, NATO and Kiev accuse Moscow of massing troops on the border with Ukraine in order to attack the country. The scenario is reminiscent of 2014 and the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, then the outbreak in eastern Ukraine of an armed conflict with pro-Russian separatists which left more than 13,000 dead.

The Kremlin denies any plans for an invasion. And Moscow accuses Washington of neglecting its own concerns: the increased activity of NATO countries in the Black Sea, Ukraine’s desire to join the Atlantic Alliance and Kiev’s ambition to arm itself with the West. “Russia never intended to attack anyone but we have red lines”, assured Monday Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman of the Kremlin.

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Many observers, in Europe and in the United States, believe that the Russian president is bluffing with the deployment of forces on the borders of Ukraine. However, few completely rule out the hypothesis of an attack.

Sanctions in the event of an invasion

Should Moscow take action, a senior White House official warned that the United States “Would respond favorably” to a demand for an increased US military presence in Eastern Europe and would further support the Ukrainian army. Washington also wields the threat of economic sanctions against the Russian regime. And ensures that they would be more painful than those that have piled up without much effect on Russia since 2014. “We are well aware that the American side has an addiction to sanctions”, quipped the Kremlin spokesman on Tuesday.

The European Union is also ready to adopt additional sanctions against Russia, warned the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday.

The holding of this virtual Biden-Putin summit is already a success for Russia, which claims to be an unavoidable geopolitical power and thus at least temporarily tears the American president away from his major strategic priority, rivalry with China. It had been a few weeks since the Kremlin called for a face-to-face meeting between the two presidents.

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The World with AFP