WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Saturday warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that an invasion of Ukraine would result in “swift and significant costs for Russia” in an hour-long phone call that failed to reach ease growing tensions.
A senior Biden administration official called the call “professional” but said the dialogue resulted in “no fundamental change in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks.”
The call, which lasted just over an hour, ended shortly after noon ET. It came as the White House said a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent, possibly before the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which end on February 20.
Biden told Putin that “if Russia undertakes another invasion of Ukraine, the United States with our allies and partners will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia,” according to the White House.
“President Biden reiterated that a new Russian invasion of Ukraine would cause widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s position,” the White House said, adding that Biden was also clear that the United States , while committed to diplomacy, are “also prepared for other scenarios”.
The talks came after the State Department on Friday evening ordered most of the staff remaining at the US Embassy in Kyiv to leave Ukraine immediately. The Pentagon also ordered the withdrawal of 160 National Guard troops from Ukraine.
Biden is at Camp David in Maryland for the weekend.
In a phone call earlier on Saturday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that if Russia invaded Ukraine it would lead to a “resolute, massive and united transatlantic response”. .
A “sincere dialogue” incompatible with a military escalation, Macron tells Putin
Putin also spoke on Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has tried to serve as the main European interlocutor in the crisis.
Macron told Putin that “sincere dialogue” is not compatible with military escalation, in a phone call that lasted more than an hour, according to French media.
Putin, meanwhile, suggested the United States was engaging in “provocative speculation” about a possible Russian probe into Ukraine, according to a Kremlin statement about the Russian leader’s conversation with Macron. Putin also raised concerns about the “massive supplies of modern weapons” the West is sending to Ukraine and suggested that this would create the conditions for a Ukrainian military assault in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists operate.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
US orders most embassy staff in Ukraine to leave
On Friday night, the State Department ordered most staff at its embassy in Kyiv to evacuate, as the White House warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent.
The embassy is suspending consular services but will still provide some emergency services with a small team remaining. The embassy will operate at a “minimum” to maintain “essential functions,” according to a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move comes as Washington has stepped up warnings for Americans to leave the country. Should a conflict materialize, Americans in Ukraine should not expect the US military to rescue them, the official said Saturday morning, adding, “It’s not just time to leave Ukraine. It’s it is high time for private citizens to leave Ukraine”.
The State Department had previously ordered the families of US embassy staff in Kyiv to leave, but left it up to non-essential staff whether they wanted to leave.
The department also updated its travel advisory urging Americans not to travel to Ukraine. US officials say they don’t know how many Americans are in Ukraine.
US orders withdrawal of 160 troops from Ukraine
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday ordered the withdrawal of 160 National Guard troops from Ukraine amid signs of an impending Russian invasion.
Florida National Guard troops have been advising Ukrainian forces since November. They will be sent elsewhere in Europe.
“The Secretary made this decision out of caution — with the safety and security of our personnel in mind first — and informed by State Department guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine,” the press secretary said. Pentagon, John Kirby, in a statement.
On Friday, Austin ordered 3,000 troops from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to President Joe Biden, also urged all US citizens to leave Ukraine.
– Tom Vanden Brook
Biden, Putin to speak; US warns Russia of ‘resolute and massive’ response to invasion
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to speak by phone Saturday morning as the United States seeks to ease tensions on the Ukrainian border, where Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops.
Earlier Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to discuss Russia’s military buildup, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Blinken argued for a “diplomatic route to resolve this crisis,” according to a State Department reading of the appeal, but said that would require Moscow to de-escalate and engage in “good faith discussions.” Blinken said that if Russia invaded Ukraine, it would lead to a “resolute, massive and united transatlantic response”.
Sullivan said Friday there was a “credible prospect” that military action could take place before Feb. 20, when the Beijing Olympics ends.
The 3,000 troops en route to Poland will join the 1,700 already gathering there in a show of US commitment to NATO allies worried about Russia invading Ukraine.
Contact Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.