On Thursday, US President Joe Biden called the leaders of Ukraine and nine eastern European NATO partners, threatening solidarity and severe economic sanctions if Russia attacked Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky praised Biden for his “strong support,” tweeting that they had talked for 90 minutes.
Biden informed Zelensky on his video meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and the two “discussed different forms for settling the situation” in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have carved out a self-declared state, according to Zelensky.
The White House provided no immediate response to the contact, which reporters could see Biden make via an Oval Office window.
When Zelensky, Biden met with the leaders of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia for 40 minutes, according to the White House. All of these countries, unlike Ukraine, joined NATO after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The remarks come as the US and its European allies are putting pressure on Putin to withdraw from Ukraine, where about 100,000 Russian troops have gathered along the border.
Officials in the West and Ukraine fear that Russia, which took Ukraine’s whole Crimea peninsula in 2014 and backed a separatist revolt in the east, is planning an even larger invasion.
Putin claims that Russia has no intention of invading, but that it is taking a defensive stance in response to concerns that Ukraine is becoming too close to the NATO military alliance in the West.
However, during their two-hour video chat this week, Biden told Putin that if the forces assault, Russia would suffer economic repercussions “like none he’s ever seen.”
Before and after the Putin video summit, Biden is closely working with major European nations, reaching out to the presidents of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.
The focus of Thursday’s calls shifted to countries at the forefront of a power struggle between the West and Russia for territory that was once completely under Soviet authority.
Ukraine will not get any Troops
Because Ukraine is not a NATO member and the US has no desire to engage in direct military conflict with Russia, the United States’ choices for aiding Ukraine are limited.
Despite this, the US assists in the training of Ukrainian forces and has invested more than $2.5 billion to strengthen a military that collapsed in the face of Russian aggression in 2014.
If the crisis intensifies, Biden added, deliveries of that type of “defensive capabilities” will be increased.
The notion of sending American troops into Ukraine’s conflict is “not on the table,” according to the US president. Biden, on the other hand, is pledging the opposite when it comes to the nine NATO members on the eastern border.
“We would almost certainly need to beef up our presence in NATO countries, particularly on the eastern front,” he said.
Biden and European leaders are also expressing their preparedness to impose severe economic sanctions on Russia if it launches another attack.
Among them, Olaf Scholz, Germany’s new chancellor, warned of “consequences” for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a contentious Russian project to transport natural gas to Germany.
Demands from Russia
Putin is seeking legal assurances that NATO’s eastward expansion will be halted short of Ukraine, which wants to join the alliance but is far from being accepted.
The Kremlin also claims that any future deployment of aggressive US hardware in Ukraine, such as missiles, would be a red line.
It’s still unclear how far, if at all, Washington is willing to go to accommodate Russian demands.
Negotiators were looking into “whether or not we could work out any adjustments as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front,” according to Biden.
Russian diplomats have begun working on follow-ups to the summit, according to the foreign ministry in Moscow. There were no specifics provided.
Meanwhile, new ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia were held this week, with the goal of halting conflict, freeing detainees, and restoring travel in the disputed eastern regions.
Zelensky urged the breakaway statelets to open checkpoints that would allow residents in separatist-controlled areas to cross into Kiev-controlled territory.
“This is really significant from a humanitarian standpoint, especially now, before the Christmas and New Year vacations,” Zelensky said on Wednesday.
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