US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are due to hold a highly anticipated video meeting on Tuesday amid escalating tensions over Ukraine.
Ahead of the talks, Biden is set to consult by phone with European allies on Monday evening about Russia’s troop buildup on the Ukraine border, with a view to coordinate messaging and potential economic sanctions against Moscow.
“We have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy” if Russia were to invade Ukraine, said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday
Washington and Kyiv say Moscow has massed troops near Ukraine’s borders and accuse Russia of planning an invasion.
Biden said Friday he would make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to do so.
Moscow has denied any aggressive intentions and accused the West of provocation, particularly with military exercises in the Black Sea.
A key question hanging over the talks is whether Putin might actually start a cross-border offensive, or whether he is using the troops to pressure Biden for guarantees Ukraine will never join NATO.
US to warn Russia of ‘very real costs’ in case of military action
A senior White House official said on Monday that Washington would give a “positive response” to a potential request by allies to boost its military presence in Eastern Europe in the event of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
If President Vladimir Putin “moved in, there would be an increasing request from eastern flank allies and a positive response from the United States for additional forces and capabilities and exercises,” the official said.
Another administration official also said that the US has not determined whether Putin has made a final decision on a possible invasion. Still, Biden in Tuesday’s call intends to make clear to the Russian leader that there will be a “very real cost” should Russia choose to invade, the official said.
Biden also is scheduled to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the coming days after his call with Putin, the administration official said.
Moscow expects ‘no breakthroughs’
The Kremlin said earlier on Monday that Moscow is not expecting “breakthroughs” from the call.
The Kremlin said last week that Putin would seek binding guarantees from Biden precluding NATO’s expansion to Ukraine. Biden and aides have indicated no such guarantee is likely.
US officials and former American diplomats say Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in the past, and that sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to the Russian economy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, during his daily conference call with reporters, said on Monday that US-Russian relations are in “a rather dire state” but that the Kremlin looks forward to hearing what Biden has to say.
“I think President Putin will hear these proposals with great interest. And we will be able to see how much these (proposals) would be able to defuse tensions,” Peskov told Russia’s state TV station Channel One later on Monday.
Besides Ukraine, Biden and Putin are also are expected to address cybersecurity, Iran’s nuclear program and other issues of mutual concern.