A new round of tough sanctions that the United States threatens Russia in the event of an invasion of Ukraine could lead to a complete rupture in relations between the two countries, Russian president Vladimir Putin told US President Joe Biden during a telephone conversation held on Thursday evening, the Kremlin’s press service reports.
The 55-minute dialogue, the third since Biden took office, finally set the dates for the upcoming talks on security assurances: January 9-10 in Geneva on a bilateral basis, December 12 – within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels, and then – in the OSCE.
According to the press service of the White House, Biden again called on Putin to de-escalate the situation around Ukraine and “made it clear that the United States and its allies will give a decisive response” if Russia decides to invade.
Progress in the talks scheduled for January, Biden said, would only be possible in an atmosphere of de-escalation.
According to the Kremlin, Biden stressed that Washington has no intention of deploying offensive strike weapons in the territory of Ukraine. He also “again mentioned large-scale sanctions,” which, as it became known earlier, could include measures against the oil and gas sector, oligarchs and the banking system, up to restrictions on currency transactions.
Putin and Biden also discussed the topic of nuclear armament, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told TASS. According to him, Biden has repeatedly stressed that a nuclear war cannot be won and cannot be started. Putin, in turn, said that Russia should act, as the United States would , in matters of ensuring its security.
As for the upcoming talks, they “should not turn into chatter,” Ushakov stressed. Russia, according to him, will wait for the results of two or three rounds of talks, and then draw conclusions.
By mid-December, there were about 100,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, including about 50 highly mobile battalion tactical groups, the Financial Times writes, citing sources familiar with Western intelligence data.
They estimate that the number of troops could rise to 175,000 by the end of January, when the soil will freeze and be more suitable for tank attack in the event of a ground invasion.
Two long-time Putin confidants told the Financial Times that the most likely casus belli would resemble the one that led to the start of the war with Georgia in August 2008. Russia then responded to Tbilisi’s attempt to gain control of South Ossetia by sending troops into Georgian territory with air and artillery support, using a blockade from the sea and cyberattacks.
Moscow will present the conflict with Ukraine as an attempt to protect the Russian-speaking population in the Donbas from what it will call Ukrainian aggression, FT sources said.