President Joe Biden spoke with the leaders of several European allies on Monday as tensions soar over Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border.
Biden and the heads of France, Germany, Italy and the UK demanded that Russia “de-escalate tensions” and declared support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, according to a White House readout of the call – which came hours after the president’s press secretary and a Pentagon spokesman declined to rule out sending US troops amid the brewing conflict.
Biden is scheduled to speak to Russian leader Vladimir Putin Tuesday, with concerns over the military buildup set to be the focus. The president said last week he was putting together a set of initiatives to “make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”
The day before Biden’s scheduled call with Putin, the president spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The leaders denounced Russia’s “increasingly harsh rhetoric” and called for a diplomatic resolution, pledging to a coordinated approach, the White House readout said.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his country’s military on Monday, saying its troops were capable of facing an attack by Russia, according to the Associated Press. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and a bloody conflict has followed in the country with Moscow-backed rebels.
There are about 70,000 troops now gathered near the Russian border with Ukraine, according to US intelligence though Moscow has denied its planning an invasion of the country. Putin pledged in November to retaliate against the US and NATO if they deploy missiles in Ukraine.
With Post wires