President Joe Biden took part in a 50-minute telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday.
On the call, Biden urged Putin to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine, making clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine, according to a statement from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden also expressed support for diplomacy ahead of high-level bilateral talks between Russia and the United States scheduled for the week of Jan. 10 in Geneva. These will include the Strategic Stability Dialogue, as well as the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE Permanent Council meeting.
Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation.
Russia has amassed troops at its border with Ukraine in recent weeks with estimates of more than 90,000 along the border and in Russian-annexed Crimea.
Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The United States and its allies have refused to offer Russia any guarantees, citing NATO’s principle that membership is open to any qualifying country.
Thursday’s call marks the second time Biden has warned Putin that the United States will coordinate with its allies to impose severe sanctions against Russia should it invade Ukraine.
The two leaders last spoke during a call on Dec. 7.
Biden has said that sending troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion is “not on the table.” But White House officials have said “other measures” could also include additional defensive material to the Ukrainians and the fortification of NATO allies on Russia’s eastern flank with additional capabilities if Russia decides to invade.
“I think both leaders believe that there is genuine value in direct leader-to-leader engagement, that we are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now, given the Russian buildup, and that it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation,” said a senior administration official ahead of the call.
Secretary Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday to coordinate and consult on a range of issues from the perspective of the government of Ukraine.
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.
Officials have also said that should Russia invade Ukraine, the sanctions imposed would go far beyond what was implemented in 2014.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in December that 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.