President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he had warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of unprecedented US sanctions if Russian troops attack Ukraine’s border.
A day after talking for two hours over a video link, Biden said Putin got the “message.”
Biden told reporters at the White House, “I have made it very clear that if he does indeed attack Ukraine, it will have dire consequences, dire consequences – economic consequences like he has never seen or never seen.”
But Biden said sending US troops to confront Russia was “not on the table.”
Increasing diplomatic pressure on the Kremlin leader, new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned of “consequences” for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a major Russian project to deliver natural gas to Germany.
Asked in an interview with Die Welt TV whether he could envision using the pipeline to stop a Russian attack on Ukraine, Scholz said his government wanted “violence on the borders to be respected”. ” and “everyone understands that there will be consequences if it doesn’t.”
The White House already suggested shortly after the video summit that halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be part of an economic response, although the issue remains controversial in Europe, which relies heavily on Russian energy resources.
France’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Russia would face “strategic and massive consequences”.
However, Putin defended Russia’s movement of up to 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s border, describing it as a defensive measure amid fears in the Kremlin that the once Soviet republic was being drawn into NATO territory.
“Russia’s foreign policy is peaceful, but it has a right to defend its security,” Putin said at a news conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“We cannot be concerned about the possibility of Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO, because undoubtedly this will be followed by the deployment of appropriate troops, bases and weapons that threaten us,” he said.
The Russian leader stressed that NATO’s eastward expansion is a “very sensitive” issue for Russia.
Ukraine’s western-leaning government wants to join the NATO military alliance but is nowhere close to being recruited. Russian troops have already occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russian-backed separatist forces have created a pro-Moscow zone covering a part of eastern Ukraine.
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Biden said that in addition to economic measures, a new Russian attack on Ukraine would strengthen the US military presence in the territory of existing NATO allies in Eastern Europe.
“We will need to strengthen our presence in NATO countries, especially those on the Eastern Front, to reassure them. In addition, I made clear that we will also provide defensive capabilities to Ukrainians,” he said.
The United States already works closely with the Ukrainian military and has provided millions of dollars in weapons. Biden, however, said there was a refusal to send US troops to defend Ukraine without a NATO agreement.
“The United States is going to use unilateral force to confront Russia that has invaded Ukraine,” Biden said. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies under Article Five. This is a sacred obligation. This obligation does not extend to … Ukraine.”
“But it would depend on what the rest of NATO was willing to do,” Biden said, adding that the door to intervention seems to be just a crack open.
Regarding Russia’s argument that NATO expansion into its former Soviet strongholds poses a threat, Biden said Moscow and major NATO allies were working at a high level that “we can work on any accommodation or No because it’s related to bringing down temperatures along the eastern front.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has said he is ready to hold talks with Putin, welcomed Tuesday’s video summit.
“I think it is positive that the President of the United States spoke with the President of Russia,” Zelensky said.
He is due to hold talks with Biden on Thursday.
Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in its eastern Lugansk and Donetsk regions since 2014, shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea.
Kiev and its Western allies accused the Kremlin of backing separatists with military, financial and political cover – a claim Moscow denies – in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)