Kremlin officials said President Putin warned Joe Biden that new sanctions would lead to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries, during a 50-minute phone call to discuss the crisis over Ukraine on Thursday.
Both sides have accused the other of provocations while tens of thousands of Russian troops have been moved close to the Ukrainian border.
And both sides used the call to warn of dire consequences if the current impasse over Ukraine is not resolved.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said the conversation centered on security guarantees that Moscow wants from the West, including preventing Ukraine joining NATO.
And he also said Putin pushed back on threats of new sanctions on Russia.
‘It would be a colossal mistake that would entail grave consequences,’ Ushakov told reporters after the call, saying it would lead to a ‘complete breakdown’ in relations.
Putin requested the call ahead of security talks scheduled for Jan. 10 in Geneva.
For its part, the White House stressed that Biden urged his Russian counterpart to deescalate tensions, hours after it emerged that the U.S. Air Force had flown a second spy plane over the region.
‘He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,’ said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
A senior administration official added: ‘The tone of the conversation between the two presidents was serious and substantive.’
Russia has alarmed the West by moving more than 85,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border but officials deny they are planning to invade.
President Biden spoke to President Putin of Russia for 50 minutes on Thursday afternoon. White House officials said the conversation was requested by Putin
An image released by the Russian Ministry of Defense shows units of the anti-aircraft missile brigade during an exercise in the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, at the end of December
America has been warning for weeks that Putin appears to be readying tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces to invade Ukraine, but the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defense force – until now (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions)
The call began at 3:35pm and the White House released a photograph of Biden on a secure line in the wood-panelled office of his Delaware home soon after.
Flight tracking websites showed a U.S. Air Force J-STARS spy plane operating over eastern Ukraine on Thursday morning – the second such flight in recent days.
‘The US Air Force flew another spy plane over eastern Ukraine on Thursday morning to gather intel about the Russian military situation on the ground, per source,’ said CNN reporter Natasha Bertrand on Twitter.
The telephone call came at the request of Putin, according to a senior Biden administration official.
‘We are at a moment of crisis and have been for some weeks now given the Russian buildup,’ the official said before the call.
‘It will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation.’
Russia has moved hundreds of tanks, self-propelled artillery and short-range ballistic missiles close to the Ukrainian border, along with what Ukrainian officials say are 50 battalion tactical groups.
Both sides accuse the other of provocations.
For Moscow, it is a sense that the West is closing in on its territory, admitting former Soviet states to NATO.
Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky told reporters the West had betrayed the trust shown to it by Russia after the end of the Soviet Union.
‘We have started to be perceived as a threat by the West, by the United States,’ he said on Wednesday, according to the state news agency TASS.
‘What we’re having now we have is kind of a remake of the Cold War, Cold War 2.0.’
President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Joe Biden held a telephone call on Thursday afternoon amid increased tensions over Ukraine
An image released by the White House showed President Biden in the Situation Room as he spoke to Putin by videolink earlier this month
Ukrainian reservists take part in military exercises near Kiev on December 18, as the country prepares for a possible Russian invasion that could come as soon as next month
First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Dmitry Polyanskiy said the U.S. and the West were responsible for starting Cold War 2.0
White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne confirmed details of the call on Wednesday, saying the two leaders would ‘discuss a range of topics, including ‘upcoming diplomatic engagements with Russia.’
The talks were expected to preview security talks due to take place of January 10, when the two sides will discuss arms control and Ukraine.
Biden accepted the request for a conversation because ‘he has always believed that there is no substitute for direct leader to leader dialogue and engagement, and that is especially true when it comes to Russia and to his engagement with President Putin,’ added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In advance of the conversations, officials said Biden would tell Putin that there is a diplomatic path to de-escalating tensions if he wants to take it, but that he should expect consequences if he invades Ukraine.
‘President Biden will also make clear when he speaks with President Putin that we are prepared for diplomacy and for a diplomatic path forward,’ said the official. ‘But we are also prepared to respond if Russia advances with a further invasion of Ukraine.’
Putin raised the stakes on Sunday by saying he would consider a range of options if the West failed to provide security guarantees preventing Ukraine joining NATO.
At the same time, Biden will spell out some of the consequences of aggression during the call, according to the official.t
The official said the U.S. had made plans to reinforce ‘NATO’s force posture’ in eastern Europe if Russia attacked and was prepared to provide Ukraine with ‘further assistance’ to help the county defend itself.
‘And we would like to see obviously, a reduction in that buildup and the return of forces to their their regular training areas or their long term deployment areas,’ said the official.
President Joe Biden is due to have a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, a matter of weeks after they held a video call to discuss tensions in Ukraine
Russian troops have massed along the border with Ukraine raising fears of imminent invasion
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the Ukrainian president on Wednesday
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday about the tensions and outlined Biden’s call with Putin.
‘We will continue to consult closely with Ukraine, NATO allies, and partners in our diplomatic efforts to deter further Russian aggression,’ he said in a tweet.
It comes as a senior Russian diplomat accused the U.S. of starting a new Cold War.
Further raising the stakes, it emerged at the same time that Russia has deployed into service a new top-secret ‘star wars’ missile that is designed to shoot down nukes and satellites.
The S-550 missile defense system ‘has entered combat duty’, according to defense sources who spoke to TASS on Wednesday.
While little is known about the missile, it is thought to be Russia’s latest foray into the space arms race – designed to take out targets hundreds of miles above earth such as low-orbit satellites, nuclear warheads, and orbital hypersonic weapons.
Moscow is thought to have carried out a test of this weapon system last month when it blew up one of its own defunct spy satellites in a move that enraged Washington and ramped up tensions with NATO.