Western leaders put forward a united front before the Biden-Putin Ukraine talks

The Western powers put forward a united front on the eve of the telephone conversation between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. At that time, it was expected that the US President would elaborate on punitive measures. If Russia invaded Ukraine, it would cause “serious” damage to the Russian economy.

According to a readout from the White House, the US President held consultations with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom on Monday. During the consultations, they “discussed their common concerns about Russia’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border.”

The Biden administration accused Russia of gathering as many as 175,000 soldiers on its border to prepare for a military invasion of Ukraine — deepening the conflict that began in 2014 when Moscow annexed Crimea.

The White House stated that the leaders are calling for “Russia to ease tensions and agree to adopt such diplomatic measures… Is the only way to resolve the conflict”.

A senior government official stated that Biden had consulted with European allies on Monday before calling Putin on Tuesday, “to ensure that he conducts dialogue with allied unity and strong transatlantic unity.”

The official added: “Regarding financial sanctions, we have had in-depth discussions with our European partners to discuss what actions we will take together if Russia undergoes a major military escalation in Ukraine,” the official told Biden and the United States. Said in a speech before the call on Monday. Allies.

“We believe that we have a way forward, which will involve substantial economic countermeasures in Europe and the United States. If they choose to continue, they will cause significant and serious economic damage to the Russian economy.”

However, the official added that the United States does not intend to “end the focus of our countermeasures on the direct use of US military power.”

After Monday’s consultations, the Elysee Palace stated that French President Emmanuel Macron discussed “the current tension between Russia and Ukraine” with the other four leaders of the so-called five countries.

“The five heads of state and government… expressed their determination to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and announced their commitment to take action to maintain peace and security in Europe,” the French statement said.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday, reiterating that Washington “unswervingly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty”. .. Faced with Russia’s aggression,” the State Council said.

The specter of new hostilities in the Donbass region in the east of the country has increased the risk of Biden’s attempt to contain Putin’s geopolitical ambitions, where conflicts with Russia-backed separatists have killed more than 14,000 people.

RAND Russia expert Samuel Charap (Samuel Charap) said of the call between Biden and Putin on Tuesday: “This is likely to be the last chance to ease the situation.” “The stakes cannot be higher. Either it leads to new diplomacy, or war becomes more likely.”

In recent weeks, Putin has made it clear that he wants legally binding security assurances that NATO will not expand into Ukraine or deploy weapons there — and warned that if the West crosses Moscow’s “red line”, it will face consequences.

An unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by Reuters shows Russia’s military activities on Russian territory and Russia’s annexed Crimea near the Ukrainian border © Reuters

Biden’s team hopes to dissuade Putin from invading by issuing heavy fines warnings if Putin chooses to do so, work with allies to develop an unprecedented package of financial sanctions, and develop military options to help Ukraine use more weapons to defend itself.

“The conference call will not solve any problems, but it is a key opportunity to shape the Kremlin’s calculus,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor. Biden appointed his Russian director of the National Security Council before she resigned for personal reasons.

According to a former senior Russian official, part of the purpose of the assembly is to discourage the Ukrainian government and hawks in the armed forces from trying to suppress the separatists in Donbass by force.

“No one wants to fight, but they want to say:’Don’t even think about it, otherwise we will completely raz you to the ground,” the person added. “It’s about containment.”

Moscow blamed the West for tensions by funding the modernization of the Ukrainian military and accused NATO of provoking it by adding new members closer to the Russian border.

Satellite images show the location of the Russian army’s training ground in Pogonovo, Voronezh region
Satellite images show Russian troops gathered at the Pogonovo training ground not far from the Donbass region of Ukraine © Maxar Technologies/AP

After claiming that the West had violated its assurances to the Soviet Union that NATO would not extend beyond the former East Germany in the last few years, Russia hoped that a potential agreement on Ukraine would be legally binding.

Alexander Gabuev, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the Kremlin may have decided that it can withstand any sanctions imposed by the United States.

The most severe measure possible — to exclude the Swift banking system — will make it difficult for Europe to purchase the oil and natural gas exports that provide most of the continent’s energy. Gabuyev said that earlier sanctions that blacklisted most of Putin’s entourage had an adverse effect of gathering cronies and oligarchs around the president.

Gabuyev said that these oligarchs “have been sanctioned forever, so the West cannot cooperate with them.” “This makes the army on the Ukrainian border like Chekhov’s gun-if it is hung on the wall, it will explode.”

Additional reporting by Victor Mallet in Paris

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