MOSCOW (AP) – US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he had warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would face serious economic problems if it tried to attack Ukraine, but promised promising talks to allay Russian concerns about NATO expansion.
Biden said he was “very frank” with Putin during their phone call on Tuesday, warning the Russian leader that he would pay a high price if he invaded Ukraine.
“There were no harsh words here,” Biden said at the White House before leaving for Kansas City. “It was polite, but I made it clear. If he really invades Ukraine, there will be grave consequences, grave consequences. Economic impact you’ve never seen before. I’m pretty sure he understood the message. “
WATCH: Biden in a conversation with Putin spoke about the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine
Asked by reporters if he ruled out the presence of American troops on the ground in order to stop Russia, Biden replied that “it is not discussed”, saying that the US obligation to protect NATO allies in the event of their attack does not extend to Ukraine, which is not a member of the Atlantic military alliance.
“The idea that the United States is going to use force unilaterally to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is now irrelevant,” Biden said.
At the same time, he said that the United States, its allies and Russia could sit down at the negotiating table to discuss Moscow’s dissatisfaction with NATO expansion.
“We hope that by Friday we can tell, announce to you, that we are holding meetings at a higher level, not only with us, but also with at least four of our main NATO allies and Russia, to discuss the future. NATO as a whole and whether we can work out any measures to reduce the temperature on the eastern front (in Ukraine), ”Biden said.
Putin, for his part, promised that Moscow would present its proposals for a dialogue with the United States on security issues within a few days. He confirmed that he denied plans to attack Ukraine, but said Moscow could not remain indifferent to the possible expansion of NATO to its neighbor.
READ MORE: Ukraine said that Russia has concentrated more than 94 thousand troops on the border
Putin, who spoke to Biden on Tuesday about seeking Western guarantees that would rule out NATO expansion into Ukraine, denied Western arguments that Russia had no say in expanding the alliance, arguing that security in Europe can only be mutual.
“Each country, of course, has the right to choose the most acceptable way to ensure its security, but this should be done in such a way as not to infringe on the interests and not undermine the security of other countries, in this case Russia,” Putin said. “Security must be global and encompass everyone equally.”
“We cannot but be concerned about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO, because this will undoubtedly lead to the deployment of military contingents, bases and weapons that may threaten us,” 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, concrete and, I would say, constructive,” adding that he and Biden had agreed to ask experts to negotiate on security in Europe.
“Russia will prepare its arguments in just a few days, within a week, and we will submit them for consideration to the American side,” he said.
“We assume that this time concerns will be heard,” he said, noting that the West has ignored Moscow’s past complaints about NATO’s eastward expansion to include former Soviet allies in Central and Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics in the Baltic states. … …
Asked Wednesday if Russia is going to attack Ukraine, Putin called the question provocative, saying that “Russia is pursuing a peaceful foreign policy, but has the right to ensure its security in the medium and long term.”
The conversation between the leaders – Biden from the White House situation room, Putin from his Sochi residence – was one of the most important during Biden’s presidency and took place at a difficult time.
US intelligence officials have determined that Russia has deployed 70,000 troops to the Ukrainian border and prepared for a possible invasion early next year. Moscow has denied any plans to attack Ukraine, rejecting Western fears as part of a campaign to vilify Russia.
White House officials have made it clear that Biden has no interest in endangering American troops by defending Ukraine. But US national security adviser Jake Sullivan noted that Biden said the US would also “provide Ukrainians with additional means of defense … and we will strengthen our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional means in response to this escalation.”
Sullivan said the US believes Putin has yet to make the final decision to invade. Biden was vice president in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine and supported the insurgency in eastern Ukraine that killed more than 14,000 people and the conflict continues.
Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters that Putin, in response to Biden’s expressions of concern about the Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, sharply said, “You Americans are worried about Russian battalions in Russia thousands of miles from the United States, and we really worried. about our safety. “
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Wednesday that “it was positive that the US President spoke to the Russian President,” adding that he would make a detailed comment on Thursday after his telephone conversation with Biden.
Lacking an immediate breakthrough on the Ukrainian issue, the US stressed the need for diplomacy and de-escalation, while sharply threatening Russia with the high cost of a military invasion.
Senior US official Victoria Nuland said the Russian invasion of Ukraine would also jeopardize the controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany, known as Nord Stream 2. She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that if Russia invades, “we expect the pipeline to be suspended.”
The Kremlin said Putin offered to lift all mutual restrictions on diplomatic missions and help normalize other aspects of bilateral relations. Sullivan said the leaders would order their staff to continue negotiations on the matter.
There was at least one area in which the two leaders hit it off. Sullivan said Biden and Putin “had a good discussion” about efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and called it an area in which the two countries could cooperate.
This was announced by Amer Madhani from Washington. Daniel Kozin from Moscow and Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Nomaan Merchant from Washington contributed to this report.