Joe Biden has vowed to make it very, very difficult for Russian President Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine, saying his administration is developing a comprehensive set of initiatives to curb Russian aggression.
The US president offered a considered warning to Putin amid growing concern about the increase in Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and increasingly aggressive rhetoric from the Kremlin.
«What I’m doing is putting together what I think will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very difficult for Mr. Putin to move forward and do what people are worried he might do,» Biden told reporters.
There are signs that the White House and the Kremlin are close to arranging a conversation next week between the two leaders.
Putin’s adviser on foreign affairs, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters on Friday that arrangements have been made for a call between Putin and Biden in the coming days.
He added that the date will be announced after Moscow and Washington finalize the details.
The Russians say a date has been agreed upon, but have declined to give a date.
Joe Biden did not detail what measures he was considering, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who met US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Sweden on Thursday, said the United States had threatened new sanctions.
He did not give details of possible sanctions but indicated that the efforts would not be effective.
«If new ‘punishments of hell’ come, we will respond,» said Lavrov. «We cannot fail to respond.»
Deep disagreements emerged during the Blinken-Lavrov meeting, with the Russian official claiming that the West was «playing with fire» by denying Moscow a say in any further NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Ukraine to join the military alliance, which holds a promise of membership but has not set a timetable.
«If new ‘punishments from hell’ come, we will respond. We cannot fail to respond,» Lavrov said.
Source: shutterstock / Lev Radin
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Anthony Blinken said this week that the United States «has made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond firmly, including a set of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past.»
He did not elaborate on the penalties being put in place.
But one could be to cut Russia off from the rapid international payments system.
The European Parliament approved a Non-binding decision in April To cut off Russia from Swift if its forces enter Ukraine.
Such a move would go a long way towards excluding Russian companies from the global financial system.
Western allies reportedly contemplated such a move in 2014 and 2015, during a previous escalation of Russia-led tensions over Ukraine.
Then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would be a «declaration of war».
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