Biden Warns of Economic Sanctions if Russia Invades Ukraine

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
December 7, 2021 Updated: December 7, 2021

President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States and its allies would respond “with strong economic and other measures” in the event of Russian military escalation against Ukraine.

The two leaders took part in a two-hour bilateral video call Tuesday, Dec. 7. The call started shortly after 10 a.m. and finished shortly after noon.

According to a White House readout of the call, Biden expressed deep concerns about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine.

Biden also reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy, according to the readout.

Biden also vowed to provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians and fortify NATO allies on Russia’s eastern flank with additional capabilities if Russia decides to invade, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters after the call.

“[Poland, Romania and other Baltic countries] will be seeking, we expect, additional capabilities and potentially additional deployments and the U.S. will be looking to respond positively to those things in the event there is a further incursion into Ukraine,” said Sullivan.

The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the United States will do so in close coordination with allies and partners. Biden spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK following the call. Biden plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Thursday.

Ukrainian officials have estimated more than 90,000 Russian troops are near its border and in Russian-occupied Crimea.

U.S. officials have said the military buildup, along with a spike in anti-Ukrainian activity on social media, harkens back to a “similar playbook” used by Putin in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea.

Sullivan wouldn’t offer specifics on what economic sanctions would look like but said those would be communicated directly to the Russians and in coordination with European allies.

“Things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan says the United States has held intensive conversations with both the incoming and outgoing German governments on the subject of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the context of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“It is a topic of utmost priority,” he said.

In recent days Russian officials have warned against NATO expanding eastward into Ukraine or any other countries on the border with Russia.

U.S. officials have said that any call from Putin to deny Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO would be rejected and that the United States isn’t going to operate according to that logic of accepting “anyone’s red lines.”

U.S. officials have also made repeated calls for diplomacy and have said the United States is not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force.

Biden said on Dec. 3 that his administration was “putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive, and meaningful, set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”

According to the call readout, Biden and Putin also discussed a range of issues on the U.S.-Russia agenda. These included the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran.

This story has been updated.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.