Biden warns of severe Russia sanctions in event of Ukraine attack

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Joe Biden and Kaja Kallas at the NATO summit in Brussels in June.
Joe Biden and Kaja Kallas at the NATO summit in Brussels in June. Source: Government Office.

United States President Joe Biden says that any hint of an attack on Ukraine by the Russian Federation would be followed by sanctions the like of which Russia has never seen before. Biden made his remarks following a video conference conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and ahead of another call with NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe, including Estonia, today, Thursday.

Biden has also stressed that deploying U.S. troops in defense of Ukraine would not go ahead unilaterally, and would require NATO consensus.

A statement Wednesday said the POTUS: "Will convene a call with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9) group, our eastern flank NATO allies, to brief them on his call with President Putin, hear their perspectives on the current security situation, and underscore the United States' commitment to transatlantic security."

Estonia and Romania are joined in the B9 by fellow EU member states Latvia, Lithuania Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

Biden said Wednesday he has warned Putin that Moscow will face economic sanctions: "Like none he has ever seen" should Russian Federation forces currently massed on the Ukrainian border, breach that border.

"I made it very clear if in fact he invades Ukraine there will be severe consequences, severe consequences - economic consequences like none he's ever seen or which ever have been seen," Biden told the White House press pack Wednesday.

"We would probably be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly those in the eastern front. In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide a defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well," he added.

Biden and Putin talked for two hours by video link the previous day, a conversation after which, Biden said, the Russian leader "got the message."

Any incursion by Russia would also trigger a bolstered U.S. military presence on the territory of existing NATO allies in eastern Europe, Biden added. The U.S. leads the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Poland, which borders both Ukraine and key Kremlin ally Belarus, as well as, via the Kaliningrad exclave, the Russian Federation itself, and regularly deploys both regular personnel and materiel in all three Baltic States and is also thought to deploy special forces in the region at times.

Prime minister: Russia does not get to dictate who can be in NATO and who cannot

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Thursday that under no circumstances can Russia be given any say in which states can be part of NATO, and which cannot.

Speaking at the weekly government press conference, Kallas said: "What is most alarming is Russia's desire to turn Europe into spheres of influence. It is unacceptable and morally indefensible and Russia must be made aware of that in clear terms."

"Russia must also not be given any say in how NATO organizes the defense of its territory," she said, adding she will discuss the issue with President Alar Karis and with heads of government of neighboring states.

Kallas said it is universally known that Russia's plan is to use military force and threats to make Ukraine change its decisions and to force NATO to choose certain paths.

The Kremlin described Tuesday's talks between Putin and Biden as "frank", adding Putin had requested Washington provide guarantees NATO will not continue any eastward expansion – referring primarily to Ukraine, which is not a NATO or EU member.

Biden refused to give any commitments to Putin over any demand for Ukraine to be blocked from joining NATO, or for a stepped-down U.S. military presence in the region, US officials said, though the White House provided no further details.

U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said: "I'm not going to... go into details in terms of what they discussed," after Tuesday's meeting, adding that: "But I will tell you clearly and directly he made no such commitments or concessions."

Kallas said Wednesday that neither the EU nor NATO would sit idly by in the event of any surge in activity by the Russian Federation, at a meeting in Vilnius with the prime ministers of Lithuania and Latvia.

This article was updated to include comments by Kaja Kallas made at Thursday's government press conference.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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