US President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a February 12 phone call that the United States and its allies would “respond decisively” with “swift and severe costs to Russia” if it undertook a “new invasion” of Ukraine.
Biden also told Putin that an invasion would ‘produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s standing’, according to a Statement from the White House issued after the call.
Live briefing: Ukraine in the crosshairs
Consult the RFE/RL new live briefing on the massive build-up of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border and the ongoing diplomacy to prevent a possible invasion. Ukraine in the crosshairs features the latest developments and analysis, updated throughout the day.
The United States remains ready to engage in diplomacy in coordination with its allies and partners, but “we are also prepared for other scenarios,” the statement concluded.
The Kremlin said Putin told Biden that the US response to Russia’s key security demands had been disregarded and that Moscow would respond soon.
Moscow demands guarantees from the West that NATO will not accept Ukraine and other former Soviet nations as members and that it will halt weapons deployments in Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe East.
The phone call came amid “hysteria” in the West about an impending Russian invasion which he called absurd, Kremlin official Yuri Ushakov said.
Ushakov said Biden warned Putin of major potential sanctions but did not emphasize them.
The call, which lasted about an hour, produced no fundamental change in the heightened tension over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, said a senior US administration official who spoke spoke to reporters after the call.
It remains unclear whether Russia is willing to pursue a diplomatic path and can proceed with military action, the official said. Russia has always denied that it was planning military action against its neighbour.
Before speaking to Biden, Putin had a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron. A summary of the Kremlin appeal suggested little progress had been made in calming tensions.
The Kremlin statement referred to “provocative speculation about an allegedly planned Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine.”
Macron’s office said the French president told his Russian counterpart that “sincere dialogue” was incompatible with escalating tensions.
Macron, who met Putin in Moscow earlier this week, and the Russian leader “both expressed a desire to continue the dialogue”, the French presidency said.
The calls came after US officials said Russia had massed enough troops near Ukraine to launch a major invasion and urged all US citizens to leave the country within 48 hours. The United States followed up on these warnings by announcing on February 12 that it had ordered non-emergency US Embassy personnel to leave Ukraine.
The Pentagon said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to discuss boosting Russian troops. Austin also ordered the temporary repositioning of National Guard troops out of Ukraine.
The approximately 150 members of the Florida National Guard were in the country “advising and mentoring Ukrainian forces,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter.
“This repositioning does not mean a change in our resolve to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but will provide flexibility to reassure allies and deter aggression,” Kirby said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on February 12 that a diplomatic avenue to resolve the Ukraine crisis remains open but would require Moscow “to defuse and engage in good faith talks “, according to the State Department. said in a statement.
The statement added that Blinken “reaffirmed that if Moscow continues the course of aggression and further invades Ukraine, it will result in a resolute, massive and united transatlantic response.”
During the call, Lavrov accused the United States of waging a “propaganda campaign” over possible Russian aggression, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. In a reading of the phone call with Blinken, Lavrov also said Washington and Brussels ignored key Russian security demands.
Blinken, who is on a trip to Southeast Asia, said the United States continues to see “very disturbing signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at Ukraine’s borders.”
Speaking at a press conference in Fiji, Blinken also expressed hope that Putin would choose diplomacy, but said Washington would impose economic sanctions if Moscow invades.
“I continue to hope that he will not choose the path of further aggression and that he will choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue,” Blinken told reporters. “But if he doesn’t, we’re ready.”
WATCH: Thousands of people have responded to a call to put aside political differences and unite for the country’s independence. Participants in the Unity March in Kyiv sang the Ukrainian anthem and held up banners reading “Say no to Putin” and “Ukrainians will resist”.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on February 11 that US intelligence now believed Putin could order an invasion before the end of the Beijing Winter Olympics on February 20.
Sullivan said a major military operation against Ukraine could begin “any day” and that it “likely to begin with aerial bombardments and missile attacks which obviously could kill civilians.”
He said such an air assault would make departures difficult. Therefore, any Americans still in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible. Sullivan spoke after Biden held a video call with transatlantic leaders and sought allied unity in the face of a worsening situation.
Biden also ordered the deployment of 3,000 additional US troops to NATO ally Poland. A February 11 Pentagon statement said troops were expected to be in place “early next week,” joining some 1,700 troops who arrived in Poland earlier this month.
Moscow insists it has no intention of attacking Ukraine, but has continued to take provocative military measures while demanding guarantees from the West that NATO will not accept the Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as members, that he will stop the deployments of weapons there and that he will also roll back his forces from Eastern Europe.
Russia said on February 12 that it had also withdrawn diplomatic personnel from Ukraine.
“Fearing possible provocations from the Kiev regime or other countries, we have indeed decided to optimize the staffing of Russian missions in Ukraine,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. , in a press release.
Ukraine’s government, meanwhile, urged citizens on February 12 not to overreact, saying the country’s armed forces were ready to repel any attack.