President Joe Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty on Sunday in a call with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Biden said the U.S. and its allies and partners “will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
The leaders expressed support for diplomatic efforts through a series of meetings starting next week with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, she said.
The call comes three days after Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning him that any advance of Russian troops into Ukraine would be met with unprecedented economic and diplomatic consequences.
The U.S. and its European allies have discussed possible options for retaliation, which could include sanctions on Russian banks and exports of the country’s commodities. The most severe and economically painful option would be to cut Russia off from the international payment system known as SWIFT.
The U.S. has told European allies that the massive Russian military presence near Ukraine might be preparation for an invasion before the frozen terrain turns to mud in the spring.
The Kremlin denies it intends to invade its neighbor, while also demanding security guarantees from the West including a ban on eventual expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to encompass former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Georgia and the withdrawal of NATO forces in Europe to positions they held in 1997. American officials and NATO allies have described those conditions as non-starters.
For its part, Ukraine sees little danger at present of “open aggression” from Russia or any large increase in the number of Russian troops near its border, National Security and Defense Council chief Oleksiy Danilov said at a briefing in Kyiv on Thursday.
Eight years ago, Russia annexed Crimea and stoked a military conflict in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions. Fighting flared up last year as the Kremlin amassed troops on the border with its former Soviet satellite, saying it was conducting drills. Though the conflict eased after discussions between Putin and Biden, Russia hasn’t pulled back all its troops and equipment.
—With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska
Read more: time.com