President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that if Moscow invades Ukraine, the US would impose new sanctions on Russia, send more troops to NATO’s “eastern flank,” and give more military aid to Kyiv.
The two leaders held a virtual summit that lasted just over two hours amid soaring tensions over Ukraine. The US has been warning since October that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine, while Moscow strongly denies the charge and points to the US and NATO presence in the region as the source of tensions.
“[President Biden] told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures. We would provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that of which we are already providing. And we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.
Sullivan wouldn’t specify what the new sanctions would entail, but other officials have insisted they would hurt Russia. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the potential sanctions could “impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy.”
Leading up to the talks, Russian officials said Putin would ask Biden for NATO to curtail its eastern expansion. In a readout of the meeting, the Kremlin said Putin asked for guarantees that the military alliance wouldn’t move east or deploy “offensive strike weapons systems in countries adjacent to Russia.”
When asked about Russia’s desire for such guarantees, Sullivan said Biden made no “commitments” or “concessions” relating to NATO’s expansion. He also said if the US chooses to fortify its forces in the region, it would likely be in the Baltic States or other Eastern European countries such as Poland or Romania.
It didn’t appear a breakthrough was made during the meeting, and Sullivan said US and Russian officials will discuss the issue further. He said it is up to the Russians to deescalate and remove troops from the region. But for their part, Moscow has said Ukraine has sent about half of its army to the conflict zone in the eastern Donbas region, suggesting Kyiv is planning an offensive.