President Joe Biden reportedly exchanged threats with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during a tense 50-minute phone call from Biden’s residence in Delaware on Thursday amid rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed powers over Ukraine.
Daily Mail Online reported that Russian officials informed Biden that new U.S. sanctions would likely cause a “complete breakdown in relations” between Moscow and Washington, while both sides have accused the other of provoking one another as a reported 90,000 or so Russian troops have been massed along Ukraine’s eastern boundaries. In addition, Russian forces are in neighboring Belarus, to Ukraine’s north.
In addition, “both sides used the call to warn of dire consequences if the current impasse over Ukraine is not resolved,” the outlet added.
Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin aide, said that one focus of the conversation centered on Moscow’s demand for security guarantees from the West in the form of keeping Ukraine, which has historically been more aligned with Russia, out of NATO. He also said that Putin rejected threats of new U.S.-led sanctions.
“It would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences,” he told reporters following the call, adding that they would lead to a “complete breakdown” in relations between both countries.
Daily Mail Online noted further that the Russian president asked for the phone call, which comes ahead of security discussions scheduled for Jan. 10 in Geneva.
Biden, meanwhile, emphasized that Putin should deescalate tensions, which came a couple of hours after a second U.S. Air Force spy plane had flown over the region.
“He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki advised reporters.
In addition, another senior Biden administration noted: “The tone of the conversation between the two presidents was serious and substantive.”
“We are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now given the Russian buildup,” the official continued, adding, “‘It will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation.”
Despite the presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border, Putin has denied that he is planning to invade.
“The US Air Force flew another spy plane over eastern Ukraine on Thursday morning to gather intel about the Russian military situation on the ground, per source,” CNN reporter Natasha Bertrand noted in a tweet.
By all appearances, the forces arrayed against Ukraine are capable of conducting an invasion. Besides infantry and support units, Putin has deployed tanks and other armored vehicles, artillery, electronic warfare elements, short-range ballistic missiles, and air defense.
But Russian officials have claimed that the West and the U.S., in particular, have provoked Moscow.
“We have started to be perceived as a threat by the West, by the United States,” Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky told reporters, adding that the U.S. has betrayed trust shown by Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“What we’re having now we have is kind of a remake of the Cold War, Cold War 2.0,” he added.
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