U.S. President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the U.S. and its allies "would respond with strong economic and other measures" against Moscow if it launches a military escalation against Ukraine.
The two leaders held a two-hour-long video conference on Dec. 7 to discuss the acute security crisis that unfolded in November when Russia amassed nearly 100,000 troops poised to surround Ukraine, raising fears of a full-fledged invasion.
The high-stakes talks are expected by many to be a turning point in the grave crisis instigated by the Kremlin.
"Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy," the White House announced following the meeting.
"The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners."
Biden and Putin also discussed the strategic stability between the two powers, as well as ransomware and joint work on regional issues such as Iran. Neither made any personal statements following the dialogue.
Prior to the meeting, Kremin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov asserted that an immediate breakthrough in U.S.-Russian relations following the conference was unlikely.
Earlier in the day, Biden also held a video conference with key European allies, including Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom regarding Ukraine and the Russian military buildup.
It was earlier announced that Biden would have a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, following the conversation with Putin. Biden will reportedly talk to Zelensky on Dec. 9.
Amid the preparation for the talks with Putin, Biden on Dec. 3 vowed to take a "comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives" to make a Russian attack difficult in the event of major escalation. Biden, however, did not specify any particular steps contemplated.
On Dec. 7, Bloomberg reported that in case of Russian invasion, the White House intended to push Germany into closing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project aggressively advocated by the Kremlin.
Moreover, the U.S. administration has also prepared a plan to cut Russia off from SWIFT, the international banking payment system, and impose crushing sanctions on the inner circle of Russian elites and energy producers, to counter a possible invasion of Ukraine, according to CNN.
Nonetheless, according to unnamed CNN sources, the U.S. administration acknowledges its limited options to totally deter the invasion and is contemplating a contingency plan to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine in the event of Russia's attack.
According to the Ukrainian intelligence, Russia might employ over 94,000 troops to launch a full-scale invasion and seize much of Ukraine's territory in the south and east to the Dnipro River, which might happen in early 2022. Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Dec. 3 that the invasion is probable though not yet imminent.