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In Call With Zelenskiy, Biden Vows To Act Decisively With Allies If Russia Invades Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden has reassured Ukraine of U.S. support in the face of a Russian military buildup on Ukraine's borders, telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a phone call on January 2 that the U.S. and its allies will "respond decisively" if Russia invades the former Soviet republic.

Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement after the two leaders spoke.

“The leaders expressed support for diplomatic efforts, starting next week with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” Psaki said.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine appreciates the “unwavering” support from the United States, noting on Twitter that he and Biden discussed cooperation between the United States, Ukraine, and other partners "in keeping peace in Europe, preventing further escalation, reforms, de-oligarchization.”

The call was the second in three weeks between Biden and Zelenskiy as the White House attempts to address the Russian troop buildup. U.S. intelligence findings indicate Russia has made preparations for a potential invasion in early 2022, and authorities in Kyiv have expressed concerns that Russia could invade Ukraine in the coming weeks.

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he feared that Russian President Vladimir Putin was intent on invading Ukraine and “nothing other than a level of sanctions that Russia has never seen will deter him.”

Speaking on January 2 on U.S. broadcaster CBS, Schiff also said that a powerful deterrent “is the understanding that if they do invade, it is going to bring [NATO] closer to Russia, not push it farther away."

Biden’s call with Zelenskiy follows talks between Biden and Putin on December 30 in which Biden said the United States and its allies would impose severe sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.

During the call Biden warned Putin against invading Ukraine, while the Kremlin leader said anti-Moscow sanctions would be a "colossal mistake." But both leaders indicated support for further diplomacy.

Russia has demanded sweeping security guarantees from the United States and NATO, including that Ukraine and other former Soviet countries will not join NATO and a rollback of military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe. Putin has urged the West to meet the demands “immediately.”

Russia has defended its troop buildup, saying it could not remain indifferent to perceived NATO aggression on Russia's "doorstep."

The U.S. has urged Russia to "engage meaningfully" in upcoming high-level talks on the tense standoff between Moscow and Kyiv.

The first of the three rounds of talks are set for January 9-10 in Geneva. They are to discuss arms control and tensions over Ukraine under their bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue.

That will be followed by a separate meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels on January 12. Another meeting will be held in Vienna a day later within the framework of the OSCE, which includes the United States, its European allies, Ukraine, and Russia.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, AP, Reuters, and AFP
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