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Biden will lay out in a call with Putin the U.S. response if Russia invades Ukraine

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16.
Patrick Semansky
President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16.

Updated December 6, 2021 at 9:16 PM ET

President Biden plans to tell Russian President Vladimir Putin on a video call scheduled for Tuesday what the United States is ready to do in the event Russia invades Ukraine, a senior administration official told reporters. That response that could include economic sanctions coordinated with allies, support for Ukraine and a stepped-up presence to support NATO allies in the eastern flank.

"To be clear, we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision about further military escalation in Ukraine. But we do know he is putting in place the capacity to engage in such escalation should he decide to do so," the official said, noting the buildup and the disinformation campaign are reminiscent of the "playbook" used in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea.

Biden will raise concerns about the Russian military buildup on the borders with Ukraine "in a professional, candid, straightforward manner where he will make clear without any kind of rhetorical flourish or finger-wagging what the United States is prepared to do both in respect to deterrence and in respect to diplomacy," the official told reporters.

"We believe that we have a path forward that would involve substantial economic countermeasures by both the Europeans and the United States that would impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economic should they choose to proceed," the official said, declining to give details.

The official said that the U.S. was preparing for the possibility of stepped-up rotational deployments in eastern flank NATO allies, as was done in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea and incursion into the Donbas region. "We are working through the prudent planning of what we would have to in the event of such an escalation, and how we would have to ensure the security of our NATO allies in that context," the official said.

Biden will tell Putin there will be "real costs" for any invasion but also lay out a diplomatic path forward through talks and fulfilment of the peace plan for eastern Ukraine known as the Minsk agreement, the official said. "We will of course support discussions between NATO and Russia to address larger issues of concern on both sides," the official said.

Asked if U.S. troops would be part of the response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the official said that "The United States is not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force," as opposed to a combination of support for Ukraine's military and NATO forces, along with the economic sanctions.

Biden spoke with key European allies on Monday in advance of the call to coordinate their message. The White House said in a statement that he spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, and that they "called on Russia to de-escalate tensions."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the administration official said. Biden will follow up with Zelenskyy in coming days, the official said.

The official added that any call by Putin to forbid Ukraine's entry into NATO would be rejected, reaffirming Biden's comments last week that the U.S. would not "accept anybody's red line."

Blinken discussed the military buildup in detail with NATO allies last week. The official said Russia has added battalion tactical groups around Ukraine in multiple places.

Biden also plans to discuss strategic stability and arms control with Putin, cyber issues and Iran's nuclear program, the official said.

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NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.