President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would be tougher than former President Barack Obama on the issue of Ukraine, as the two leaders spoke on a video call on Tuesday.
After the meeting, Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan said the president warned Putin not to repeat his incursion into Ukrainian territory after he annexed Crimea in 2014 when Obama was president and Biden was vice president.
“I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” Sullivan told reporters at the daily press briefing.
Sullivan said Biden would deploy “clear and decisive” actions, including economic sanctions to punish Russia if they invaded Ukraine.
“The measures we have put on the table are designed to show the Russian government that should it choose to engage in such an invasion, there will be those consequences,” he said.
Biden’s staff did not permit journalists to witness the beginning of the video call between the two leaders or take pictures of the event, but they issued a readout afterward.
“President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy,” the White House said after the call.
The Kremlin released a photo of the meeting via Sputnik, which showed Putin sitting in front of a video monitor screen with Biden waving at him.
Biden sought out the call as intelligence showed that Putin was escalating the build-up of military forces on the Russia/Ukraine border.
The White House said Biden “voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine” during the call.
Putin continues demanding that Ukraine not be allowed to join the NATO alliance, an assertion considered a non-starter by United States.
Biden warned Putin the United States and its allies would respond with “strong economic and other measures” if he escalated a military conflict with Ukraine.
The White House also said Biden discussed ransomware and the issue of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon.
“The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, and the U.S. will do so in close coordination with allies and partners,” the readout concluded.