Biden warns Putin: “If you invade, the economic response will be harsh”

from Giuseppe Sarcina

The presidents of the USA and Russia speak for two hours about Ukraine. Then the Americans report to the Europeans. Yesterday several clashes not far from the border.

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT WASHINGTON Two hours of online interview and a first result: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed to entrust “their teams with the task of continuing” the debate on the Ukrainian crisis. It would not be prudent, however, to draw hasty conclusions. Just as the two leaders were arguing, there were several clashes not far from Donetsk, on the line dividing the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian militias backed by Moscow.

The cameras showed the opening footage of the summit. Seemingly relaxed atmosphere. Putin: “Greetings, Mr. President.” Biden: «A pleasure to meet again, unfortunately last time, at the G20, there was no opportunity to meet. I hope that next time we will see each other in person ».

But the final statement released by the White House has a very different tone. First of all it is emphasized how «Biden expressed the deep concern of the United States and its European allies for the escalation of the armed forces that are surrounding Ukraine ”. Then the hardest passage: «It must be clear that we and our allies will respond with strong economic sanctions and other measures in the event of a further military escalation. President Biden reiterates his support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine “. Only at the end comes the appeal: “Let’s go back to diplomacy, let our advisers work.” The immediate goal is to ensure a permanent “ceasefire” in the entire region. Then the new phase of negotiations should open.

But the path is narrow. The Minsk agreements, updated in 2015, provide, in a nutshell, that Kiev regains full control of the borders, and therefore also of the Donbass occupied by pro-Russians. In exchange, the Ukrainian parliament will have to pass a constitutional reform that gives more autonomy to the eastern regions. This pattern, however, appears to be superseded by the facts. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski thinks the country will be safe only under the NATO shield.

A prospect that Putin considers simply unacceptable and for this reason he has deployed 175,000 soldiers close to the border with Ukraine.

Biden yesterday confirmed the impression spread for days in Washington. In the event of Russian aggression, the Americans will not send soldiers to defend Kiev. What will they do then? National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan showed up in front of reporters to give some answers. First, Biden will continue to consult with allies. Yesterday the president telephoned Mario Draghi and the leaders of Germany, France and the United Kingdom again, as he did the other night, on the eve of the summit with Putin. “We work with them on possible economic sanctions,” Sullivan said. According to rumors, the measures could exclude Moscow from the Swift circuit for payments on an international scale; block the convertibility of the ruble; close the financing channels for oil companies, starting with Gazprom. State banks, such as VTB and Gazprombank, could also be affected.

The US will also increase military supplies to Ukraine. According to information gathered in areas near the Pentagon, other batteries of Javelins anti-tank missiles and drone squadrons would be delivered.

Finally, Sullivan reassured the countries of Eastern Europe. If Putin were to attack Ukraine, the United States “will strengthen military response capabilities in Poland, Romania and the Baltic countries”.