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Biden warns Putin of new sanctions if Russia crosses into Ukraine

Biden warns Putin of new sanctions if Russia crosses into Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a summit at the Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16. File Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/EPA-EFE

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a video call Tuesday that the United States and its allies would respond with strong measures if Russia invades Ukraine.

In the 2-hour secure virtual meeting, the first since they met in person in Geneva in June, Biden "voiced the deep concerns" of the United States and its allies about Russia's escalation of forces around Ukraine and "reiterated his support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" while calling for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy, the White House said.

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Biden also asserted that the United States and its allies would respond with "strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation."

"He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures," National security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a press conference.

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He added "there was a lot of give and take" between Biden and Putin, adding that Biden was "crystal clear about where the United States stands."

Sullivan added the administration was prepared to send supplies and other resources to Ukraine and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies if Russia further invades Ukraine.

"The question here is not about whether or not the United States is going to send American service members to the territory of our NATO allies," Sullivan said. "The question is what additional capabilities can we provide to ensure that they feel strongly about their own sovereignty and territorial integrity."

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The two presidents tasked their teams to follow up, as the White House said the United States "will do so in close coordination with allies and partners."

Putin has said that the troops are not poised to cross the border into Ukraine, where separatists have been in conflict with Kiev in the Donbas region.

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Tuesday's meeting came amid a frosty U.S.-Russia relationship that's been in decline for years.

"We have believed from the beginning of this administration that there is no substitute for direct dialogue for leaders, and that is true in spades when it comes to the U.S.-Russia relationship," a White House official said before the call. "So, President Biden welcomes the opportunity to engage clearly and directly with President Putin."

"We have consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.

"You can call that a threat. You can call that a fact. You can call that preparation. You can call it whatever you want to call it."

Biden and Putin also discussed other issues: "the U.S.-Russia dialogue on Strategic Stability, a separate dialogue on ransomware, as well as joint work on regional issues such as Iran," the White House said.

Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called out Russia for placing "large and unusual concentrations of Russian forces close to Ukraine's border" and demanded it stop "any further provocation or aggressive actions."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said then that nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers had gathered in Crimea near the Ukrainian border.

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