On Wednesday, Biden is holding just the second comprehensive solo press conference of his nearly full first year in office. The press conference is taking place amid a rather difficult year for the administration, for both its domestic and foreign agendas.
US President Joe Biden said at his presser that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has never seen sanctions like the ones that will be imposed if tensions escalate in Ukraine.
The president added when discussing the state of bilateral relations with Russia and the existing tensions that he had “very frank discussions” with Putin, and that they both had “no problems” understanding each other during their encounters either via phone or in person.
Nevertheless, Biden stated that in the event of an alleged invasion of Ukraine, Russia would suffer consequences that would be a “disaster.”
“Russia will be held accountable if it invades and it depends on what it does – it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do, but if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine,” Biden said, adding that Russia has overwhelming superiority over Ukraine.
Biden added that the United States and its European allies are prepared to impose severe costs on Russia and its economy should it invade. He then stressed that the huge sanctions pressure would include terrible consequences for the Russian banking system, as its banks would not be able to deal in US dollars.
“If they invade, they’re going to pay, their banks will not be able to deal in dollars,” Biden said.
However, Biden acknowledged that the introduction of sanctions related to dollar transactions will have a negative impact on both the US and Europe.
Putin, according to Biden, requested that Ukraine never join NATO or host NATO nuclear weapons. In his turn, Biden said that he believes that depending on the circumstances, “we can work out something on the second piece,” but Ukraine is anyhow still a long way from NATO membership.
“The likelihood that Ukraine is going to join NATO in the near term is not very likely based on much more work they have to do in terms of democracy and a few other things going on there,” he explained.
Biden acknowledged that there are certain disagreements inside NATO about what member countries are willing to do in the event of an alleged Russian intervention in Ukraine.
“It’s very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page, and that’s what I’m spending a lot of time doing,” he told reporters. “There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do depending on what happens, the degree to which they’re able to go.”
The response, according to the president, will be determined by what Russia does and “to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front.” Later in the presser, Biden also assessed the geopolitical aspirations of Russia and its president.
“He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West,” he presumed.
However, when talking about the recent security negotiations over the last week, the president admitted that the talks between the US, NATO, and Russia “have not produced anything.”
“So far, the three meetings we have had [last week] have not produced anything because the impression I get from my Secretary of State [Antony Blinken], my national security adviser [Jake Sullivan] and my other senior officials that were doing these meetings, is that there is a question of whether the people they’re talking to [Russian diplomats] know what he [Putin] is going to do,” Biden said.
Biden Says Another Summit With Putin Possible in Order to Ease Tensions
Biden suggested there is still a possibility of having another summit with his Russian counterpart in the future, given that both leaders have already met face to face last June and via a video call last month.
“I still think that is a possibility,” he said in response to a question of whether there will be another meeting with Putin as a way to de-escalate tensions.
Last week, Russia held several comprehensive negotiations with the US, NATO, and the OSCE in Europe dedicated to bilateral security issues and growing tensions in the region. The talks with the US were prompted by a draft security guarantee treaty that Moscow presented last month.
In particular, the document includes provisions on the mutual non-deployment of medium-range and shorter-range missiles within each other’s reach, on the rejection of further NATO expansion at the expense of the former Soviet republics, and on reducing the number of military exercises.
The US, even before the start of the talks held on January 10, stated that some of the proposals were unacceptable. Moscow stressed that the draft was not an ultimatum, but Russia would not make unilateral concessions, especially under pressure.
Russia has repeatedly stressed that the further expansion of NATO to the east since 1997, as well as the deployment of offensive weapons on Ukrainian territory and in countries located close to Russia, are “red lines” for Moscow, as the Russian leader put it last month.
Russia has been accused by Western countries and Ukraine of a military build-up near the Ukrainian border over the past several weeks, which Kyiv claims are “invasion preparations”.
Earlier, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed the US had intelligence that Russia is allegedly planning to utilize agents to stage a false flag operation as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine, allegations that have been consistently refuted by Russia.