US President Joe Biden has warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Russia if it invaded Ukraine, while the Russian leader has demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand farther eastward.
The verbal exchanges were made in a video call between Biden and Putin that lasted for two hours on Tuesday and covered a range of issues with a major focus on the situation around Ukraine.
“President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the US and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” a readout of the call released by the White House said.
“President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy. The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the US will do so in close coordination with allies and partners,” the statement added.
The White House also said the two leaders discussed several issues on which the US and Russia could work together, including the dialogue on strategic stability, combating ransomware and relations with Iran.
The Kremlin said Putin had responded to Biden’s warning with a demand for reliable, legally binding guarantees against NATO expansion eastward and complained about NATO attempts to “develop” Ukrainian territory.
“Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia,” the Kremlin said.
Putin also called for guarantees that offensive strike systems would not be deployed in countries close to Russia, according to the Kremlin.
The Kremlin said the Russian president told Biden it was wrong to put all the responsibility on Russia’s shoulders for current tensions.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said a day earlier that the virtual meeting would come at a time that the state of relations between the United States and Russia was “deplorable” with regard to the tensions escalating around Ukraine and in the Black Sea region.
The Putin-Biden conversation was the fifth since Biden’s assumption of the presidential office. The two leaders have already had three phone calls, and they also met in the Swiss city of Geneva in person in June this year.
Tensions have escalated between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine and the Black Sea region.
The United States, its NATO allies and Ukraine have over the past weeks accused Moscow of enlarging the number of troops near Ukraine’s border for a possible invasion. Russia has dismissed the allegation, but it has warned against any provocation from Ukraine.
Moscow says Washington is involved in aggressive moves in the Black Sea, where Ukraine and the United States have held military drills recently.
The Russian president has previously warned the West and Kiev against crossing the Kremlin’s red lines over staging military exercises and sending weaponry to Ukraine.