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Biden urges Putin toward diplomacy, not war, with Ukraine

Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — President Biden warned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a videoconference Tuesday that invading Ukraine would result in stiff economic sanctions from the U.S. and several European allies.

The virtual meeting, the second time the two leaders have held direct talks since their June summit in Geneva, arose after Putin mobilized about 100,000 Russian forces on the country’s border with Ukraine, sparking new fears about an invasion.

“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 U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” according to a readout of the call released by the White House after the conference.

During their two-hour meeting, Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy. “The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners,” the statement said.

The two world leaders also discussed U.S. and Russian long-term work on arms control, ransomware and joint efforts on regional issues such as Iran.

Putin has sought assurances that NATO won’t make Ukraine a member of the long-standing alliance, which has 30 member countries, including the United States. Membership would essentially guarantee the former Soviet republic’s military defense.

 

“President Biden was direct and straightforward with President Putin, as he always is,” said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, after the meeting. “There was no finger-wagging, but the president was crystal clear about where the administration stands.”

He added: “We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision” about whether to launch an invasion. “We will see in the days ahead through actions, not through words, what course of action Russia chooses to take.”

The Kremlin’s official readout of the meeting blamed Ukraine for the buildup of Russian forces and offered a defensive response to Biden, whom it characterized as having emphasized “the allegedly ‘threatening’ nature of the movements of Russian troops,” and his threat of sanctions.

Putin, the Kremlin said, “stressed that the responsibility should not be shifted onto the shoulders of Russia, since it is NATO that is making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory and is building up its military potential at our borders.” Moscow, the readout continued, “is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees excluding the expansion of NATO in the eastern direction and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in the states adjacent to Russia.”

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