Putin warns of a rupture over Ukraine, Biden talks sanctions

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- On Thursday, President Joe Biden warned Russia’s Vladimir Putin that the U.S. could impose additional sanctions against Russia if it continues military action against Ukraine. Putin replied that such a U.S. move would lead to a complete breakup of ties between the two countries.

Putin warns of a rupture over Ukraine, Biden talks sanctions

The leaders spoke openly for almost an hour amid increasing alarm about Russia's troop buildup in Ukraine. This crisis has gotten worse as the Kremlin has increased its demand for border security guarantees and tested hypersonic missiles in order to underline its demands.

Yuri Ushakov (President's foreign affairs advisor), briefed reporters in Moscow following the Biden-Putin telephone conversation. He said that further U.S. sanctions would be "a colossal error that would entail grave consequences." Biden was informed by Putin that Russia would behave the same way as the U.S. if it were to deploy offensive weapons near American borders.

White House officials gave a much more measured post-call readout. This suggested that leaders recognized there were areas where both sides could make progress, but also points where they might have to come to an agreement.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated that Biden had "urged Russia to deescalate tensions in Ukraine" and "made it clear that the United States will respond decisively with its allies and friends if Russia invades Ukraine further."

Putin requested the call. This is the second meeting between the leaders this month ahead of talks between high-ranking U.S. officials and Russian officials in Geneva on Jan. 9-10. Following the Geneva talks, a meeting will take place in Russia-NATO Council Jan. 12, and negotiations at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Vienna Jan. 13.

Officials from the White House said that Thursday's call took 50 minutes and ended after midnight in Moscow.

According to a senior administration official, Biden said that Putin now has "two options": American diplomacy or American sanctions deterrence. According to a senior administration official, Biden stated that the path taken will depend on Russia's actions over the next period.

Russia demanded a written guarantee that Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO, and that its military equipment would not be placed in ex-Soviet states. This was a demand that the Biden administration rejected.

Biden assured Putin that a diplomatic route was open, even though the Russians moved approximately 100,000 troops towards Ukraine. Kremlin officials have increased their demand for additional guarantees from NATO and the U.S.

White House officials stated that Biden made it clear that the U.S. is ready to inflict severe economic pain through sanctions if Putin chooses to launch a military attack on Ukraine.

Putin strongly reacted.

He said that this would be a mistake our ancestors would consider grave. We have made many mistakes over the last 30 years and it would be better to avoid them in this case," Ushakov stated.

Russia's demands will be discussed at the Geneva talks, but it is not clear what Biden would offer Putin, if any, in return for defusing the crisis.

Moscow requested that NATO withdraw Ukraine from its membership and all other ex-Soviet countries be included in draft security documents. They also asked for a reduction in military deployments in Central Europe and Eastern Europe.

Russia has been denied the guarantees that Putin demands from the U.S. and its allies. They cite NATO's principle of open membership to any country that qualifies. However, they agreed to meet with Russia to address its concerns.

Moscow's security proposal has raised questions about whether Putin is asking unrealistically for a rejection from the West that would allow him to invade.

Steven Pifer, the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine during the Clinton administration, stated that the Biden administration could take on elements of Russia's draft document, if Moscow is serious about negotiations.

However, NATO's key members have stated that they are not interested in expanding the alliance anytime soon. The U.S. and its allies may also be open to the Russian draft document, which calls for the establishment of new consultative mechanisms such as the NATO Russia Council and a hotline between NATO members.

In an analysis for the Washington think-tank, Pifer wrote that the draft treaty's ban on NATO military activities in Ukraine, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus or Central Asia was an overreach. However, some measures to limit military exercise and activities on a mutual basis might be possible."

Biden and Putin met in Geneva in June to discuss a range of tensions in the U.S.–Russia relationship. They are unlikely to participate in the January talks.

Russia tested Zircon hypersonic rockets last week. Russian officials claimed that the test indicated the conclusion of testing before the missile enters service next year with the Russian navy and arm its cruisers and frigates.

U.S intelligence had earlier this month discovered that Russia was planning a military offensive that could start as soon as 2022. However, Putin has yet to decide whether or not to go ahead with it.

Oleksiy Daillov, secretary of Ukraine's Security and Defense Council said that his country does not believe there is an immediate threat from a major Russian invasion.

Danilov stated that "our experts believe that the Russian Federation can't physically invade our territory." There is a time frame for preparations.

According to Chuck Pritchard (a spokesperson for U.S. European Command), the U.S. military flew surveillance flights in Ukrainian airspace during this week. This included a flight by an Air Force E-8C JSTARS plane on Thursday. This plane can provide intelligence on ground forces.

Russia denies any intention to launch an invasion. In turn, Ukraine accuses Russia of plotting to seize control of territory held by rebels backed by Moscow by force. The claim was rejected by Ukraine.

Putin warned at the same time that Moscow would have to take "adequate militari-technical steps" if the West continued its aggressive "on the threshold" approach.

Putin expressed concern last month that NATO might use Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow within five minutes. He also stated that Zircon would provide Russia with a similar capability.

Biden was preparing for talks with Putin. The administration wanted to emphasize its commitment to Ukraine, and to drive home Washington's commitment to the principle of "nothing about you without your permission" when forming policy that impacts European allies. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine.

The past military incursions of Putin are a significant part of our history.

In 2014, Russian troops invaded the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea to seize the territory from Ukraine. The Russian annexation Crimea was one the most difficult moments for President Barack Obama's international career.

After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, the U.S. and Russia relationship suffered severe damage. President George W. Bush ordered his troops to South Ossetia after President Mikheil Sakashvili had sent them.

Biden, who spent the week in Delaware, spoke with Putin from his Wilmington home. The White House shared a photo of President Biden speaking with Putin from his home near Wilmington. It was taken from a desk covered in family photos.

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