US President Joe Biden at the White House on December 8, 2021 (AFP / Brendan Smialowski)
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday waved the threat of sanctions as Vladimir Poutine “has never seen” in the event of an invasion of Ukraine, his Russian counterpart judging him that Moscow had “the right” to defend itself.
“I was very clear, if indeed he invades Ukraine,” there will be “economic consequences like he has never seen,” Joe Biden told reporters at the White House the day after. ‘a two-hour interview with Vladimir Putin.
If the Democratic president has so far ruled out sending American troops because Kiev is not a member of NATO, diplomatic pressure is increasing on the Kremlin, accused of massing tens of thousands of soldiers at the border with Ukraine, with a view to attacking the country.
Kiev has received the backing of new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who on Wednesday threatened “consequences” for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany in the event of an invasion.
“Our position is very clear, we want the inviolability of borders to be respected by all,” he said in his first interview after taking office.
The White House did not say clearly whether Mr. Biden had raised this pressure tactic in front of Vladimir Putin, but the adviser for national security, Jake Sullivan, insisted on this option “absolutely priority”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and European Council President Charles Michel agreed on Wednesday in an appeal “on the need to impose swift and severe sanctions on Russia” if the military escalation escalates .
The United Kingdom and France have also joined the concert of European voices calling on Vladimir Putin for restraint. In Paris, the Foreign Ministry thus warned Russia of the “strategic and massive consequences” that an aggression against Ukraine would have.
– “Means of defense” –
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, December 8, 2021 (SPUTNIK / Evgeny ODINOKOV)
For its part, Russia denies any belligerent inclination towards its neighbor, from which it annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, but categorically opposes Kiev’s accession to NATO.
Vladimir Poutine affirmed Wednesday that Moscow had “the right to protect its security”, estimating that letting NATO approach its borders without reacting would be “criminal”.
“We can only be concerned about the possible admission of Ukraine into NATO, as this would undoubtedly be accompanied by a deployment of military contingents, bases and armaments which threaten us, ”he added.
During his meeting with the host of the White House, the Russian head of state notably asked for “sure legal guarantees” which would prevent Ukraine from joining NATO.
In Washington, Joe Biden ruled that “the sacred obligation” which binds him to the countries of the Atlantic Alliance “does not extend to Ukraine”, excluding for the moment a military intervention. But he warned that a Russian attack in Ukraine would lead to a strengthening of the American military presence on the territories of NATO members in Eastern Europe.
The American president also “clearly indicated to Ukraine” that, in this case of figure, the United States would provide “means of defense”.
Ukraine will already receive “small arms and ammunition” sent this week as part of a support plan approved by Joe Biden, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.
– Risk of a new confrontation –
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who for several months has been calling on his Western allies to support him more, on Wednesday judged the discussions between MM. Biden and Putin.
“We are now seeing a real personal reaction (…) from President Biden in the resolution of the conflict,” he said. The US and Ukrainian presidents are due to speak by phone on Thursday.
At the end of this call, Joe Biden will consult with the leaders of the “group of nine from Bucharest”, which brings together Eastern European countries members of NATO, on his exchange with his Vladimir Poutine and the fears of invasion of Ukraine.
This group includes Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Tensions are raising the specter of a new military confrontation in Ukraine, a poor country in Eastern Europe torn since 2014 by a war between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in the east.
Kiev accuses Russia of supporting the separatists, which Moscow denies. The conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.