President Joe Biden warned his counterpart in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putinin a phone call on Saturday that The United States “will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia” in case it invades Ukraine.
In a one hour and two minute call between the two leaders, Biden emphasized that “while the United States remains prepared to engage in diplomacy, in full coordination with our allies and partners, we are equally prepared for other scenarios.”
The US president also conveyed to his Russian counterpart that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would produce “widespread human suffering” Y would reduce Russia‘s prestige in the world.
The call between the two leaders began at 11:04 am Eastern US time (16:02 GMT) and lasted until 12:06 pm (17:06 GMT).
Biden took the call at the presidential residence of Camp David, in the state of Maryland, where he went on Friday afternoon.
Today’s wasThe first direct conversation between the two leaders since December 30, when Biden and Putin made their differences on Ukraine clear.
The call “It was professional and substantive and lasted over an hour. There was no fundamental change to what has been unfolding for several weeks now.”a senior US official who asked not to be identified told reporters.
For its part, Russia said that during the telephone conversation Both leaders “agreed to maintain contacts at all levels”, although on the other hand he denounced a “rise” in America’s “hysteria” on the tensions related to Ukraine.
The conversation took place after The US yesterday asked its citizens to leave Ukrainian territory in the next 24 to 48 hours Given the “clear possibility” that Russia will attack Ukraine during the Winter Olympicswhich are held until next February 20 in Beijing.
Only a few hours before the call, the United States Government ordered the departure from Ukraine of 160 members of the Florida National Guard (one of its military reserve corps) as an extreme precautionary measure.
The US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austinordered “the temporary repositioning” of these 160 reservists who have been in Ukraine since last November, the Department of Defense reported in a statement.
The troops are assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and have been advising and training the Ukrainian Armed Forces for the past few months.
After leaving the country, they will relocate to other destinations in Europe.
Diplomatic efforts continue
For his part, before speaking with Biden, Putin had a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macronwho met with him in Moscow earlier in the week to try to resolve the biggest security crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War. A Kremlin summary of the call suggested little progress had been made in defusing tensions.
In a sign that US officials were preparing for the worst case scenario, The United States announced plans to evacuate its embassy in the Ukrainian capitaland Britain joined other European nations in urging their citizens to leave Ukraine.
Russia has concentrated more than 100,000 soldiers near the border with Ukraine and has sent troops to exercises in neighboring Belarus, but denies that it intends to launch an offensive against Ukraine.
The timing of any possible Russian military action remained a key question.
The United States collected intelligence that Russia is considering Wednesday as a target date, according to a US official familiar with the findings. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity, did not say how definitive the intelligence was. The White House has publicly stressed that the United States does not know for sure whether Putin is committed to the invasion.
However, US officials again said that Russia’s buildup of firepower near Ukraine has reached the point where it could invade at short notice.
A Kremlin statement on the Putin-Macron call referred to “provocative speculation about a Russian ‘invasion’ supposedly planned Ukraine.” Russia has always denied that it plans military action against its neighbor.
Putin also complained on the call that the United States and NATO have not responded satisfactorily to Russian demands. for Ukraine to be barred from joining the military alliance and for NATO to withdraw forces from Eastern Europe.
Biden has said that the US military will not go to war in Ukrainebut promised severe economic sanctions against Moscowin concert with international allies.
The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinkensaid he told his Russian counterpart on Saturday that “Further Russian aggression would be met by a resolute, massive and united transatlantic response.”
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy tried to project calm as he watched military exercises Saturday near Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“We are not afraid, we are not panicking, everything is under control“, He said.
The United States Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austinand its Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigualso held phone conversations on Saturday.
UK troops who have been training the Ukrainian army also planned to leave the country.. Germany, the Netherlands and Italy asked their citizens to leave as soon as possible.
A State Department travel advisory on Saturday said most American staff at the Kiev embassy had been ordered to leave and other American citizens should also leave the country.
Further tensions between the US and Russia arose on Saturday when the Defense Ministry summoned the military attaché at the US embassy after he said the navy detected a American submarine in Russian waters near the Kuril Islands In the pacific. The submarine declined orders to leave but left after the navy used unspecified “appropriate means,” the ministry said.
Adding to the sense of crisis, the Pentagon ordered an additional 3,000 US troops to Poland to reassure allies.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivansaid Americans in Ukraine should not expect the US military to bail them out should air and rail travel be disrupted after a Russian invasion.
Several NATO allies, including Britain, Canada, Norway and Denmark, have also asked their citizens to leave Ukraine, as has non-NATO ally New Zealand.
Sullivan said that Russian military action could begin with air and missile strikesfollowed by a ground offensive.
“Russia has all the forces it needs to carry out a major military action”Sullivan said, adding that “Russia could choose, in a very short time, to begin a major military action against Ukraine.” He said the scale of such an invasion could range from a limited raid to an attack on Kiev, the capital.
In addition to the more than 100,000 ground troops who, according to US officials, Russia has gathered along the eastern and southern borders of Ukraine, the Russians have deployed missile, air, naval, and special operations forces, as well as supplies to sustain a war. This week, Russia moved six amphibious assault ships to the Black Sea, increasing its ability to land marines on the shore.
Biden has reinforced the US military presence in Europe as a guarantee for allies on the eastern flank of NATO. The 3,000 additional soldiers sent to Poland are added to the 1,700 who are on their way there. The US Army is also moving 1,000 soldiers from Germany to Romania, which like Poland shares a border with Ukraine.
Russia demands that the West keep former Soviet countries out of NATO. He also wants NATO to refrain from deploying weapons near its border and to push back the alliance’s forces from Eastern Europe, demands the West flatly rejects.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter conflict since 2014, when the Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian leader was ousted from office by a popular uprising. Moscow responded by annexing the peninsula of crimea and then backing a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed more than 14,000 people.
A2015 peace agreement negotiated by France and Germany helped stop large-scale fighting, but regular skirmishes have continued and efforts to reach a political settlement have stalled.
Emmanuel Macron told Vladimir Putin that “a sincere dialogue is not compatible with a military escalation” in Ukraine
Macron proposed to Putin “concrete security guarantees” for all states involved in the Ukrainian crisis
Antony Blinken demanded a de-escalation from the Russian foreign minister in Ukraine: “An invasion would result in a determined, massive and united transatlantic response”
The US began withdrawing 160 soldiers from Ukraine who were advising local forces amid tensions with Russia