Early Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden was headed to the situation room of the White House where he would speak virtually with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Initially, the video call was closed off to media; however, after several minutes in, some reporters were allowed to witness the talks.
The video call was carried out over a secure line, and the two world leaders spoke for nearly two hours before concluding the call.
White House spokespeople related to the press that Biden expressed “deep concerns” that both the United States and our European allies hold regarding a possible Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
Putin has threatened to invade the country prior to this latest incident of building up Russia’s military presence near the Ukrainian border. In 2014, Russia became “irritated” with Western military aid to the former Soviet republic. That same year, the country ousted a pro-Russian president in a popular revolt. Russian claims that NATO has been consistently “creeping” in its presence in the area, perhaps in an effort to protect the region from a Russian takeover.
Some media outlets are reporting that Putin spoke strongly regarding proposed sanctions on the country as well as demanding of “guarantees” that NATO would not add more troops to the area, among other concerns. Putin reportedly told Biden that the United States and NATO is “wrong” to put all the responsibility for current tensions on Russian shoulders.
During 2014, Russian annexed Crimea in an act that was viewed around the world as an act of aggression.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, briefed the press on the chief points of the call. Biden spoke in a “straightforward” and “made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.” Sullivan added, “Things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now.”
However, top Republicans are claiming that Biden appeared “weak” and that Biden made the country as a whole appear weak. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) claims that Biden has given Putin “the upper hand at almost every turn.” Sen. Ted Cruz said that Biden as well as Senate Democrats “need to grow a backbone.”
One of Biden’s threats is to close down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. European allies, particularly Germany, has threatened to block the pipeline if Putin continues to show aggression where the Ukraine is concerned.
It is also important to note that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline had been shut down under sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration. Sen. Ted Cruz had authored these sanctions, and the bill passed both houses. Trump signed it into law, and the sanctions held until President Biden relaxed them. Work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline restarted on January 24, 2021, just four days after Biden was sworn into office.
It is also possible that the Russian Direct Investment Fund could be targeted for economic sanctions; CNN has reported that the U.S. and her allies could “disconnect” Russia from the SWIFT international payment system, which would be seen as an “extreme” step in putting sanctions in place toward Russian.
There are over 100,000 Russian troops currently on the Ukrainian border. The Biden Administration has released information that the possibility of a Russian invasion into the Ukraine is imminent, and could possibly happen by February of next year.
There are American military in the Ukraine, and reports state that the Department of Defense is making an evacuation plan if Russia does indeed invade the Ukraine.
The Biden-Putin phone call also touched on other American concerns, including ransomware issues possibly originating in Russia and issues with Iran.
While Biden has not taken an official stance on the increased presence of Russian military on the Ukranian border, he has stated he will work closely with our European allies in order to maintain peace in the region.