Biden and Putin to speak this week

Published: December 5, 2021 3:16 PM EST
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange', Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday, the White House said Saturday. The meeting comes as U.S. intelligence is warning of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as soon as January.

“The leaders will discuss a range of topics in the U.S.-Russia relationship, including strategic stability, cyber, and regional issues,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “President Biden will underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Tens of thousands of Russian troops have amassed at the Ukraine border — months after thousands of troops assembled at the border in the spring. But unlike last spring’s buildup, which was regarded as a show of force, U.S. intelligence officials are warning that this one could be in preparation for an actual incursion into the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine.

“We know what President Putin has done in the past, we see that he is putting in place the capacity to take action in short order, and should he decide to invade, that is why we want to be prepared and in an area where we have expressed serious concern about,” Psaki said. “So, what he means by a group of- a package is there’s a range of tools at our disposal. Of course, economic sanctions are an option.”

A possible Russian invasion of Ukraine could involve as many as 175,000 troops, a U.S. official confirmed last week to CBS News. The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment, according to an administration official.

Roughly 70,000 Russian troops are currently deployed opposite Ukraine, although they lack the support units needed to launch an invasion. That support would come from reservists.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that Putin’s actions on the border are “very, very concerning” not just to the U.S. but to European leaders as well. Blinken said there would be “high-impact economic consequences” if Putin stages an incursion into Ukraine.

“Well, we don’t know President Putin’s intent,” Blinken said. “We don’t know if he’s made a decision to take renewed aggressive action against Ukraine.”

In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and amassed troops along the border. Blinken said last month that “our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014 when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory, and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked.”

Olivia Gazis and David Martin contributed to this report.