US President Joe Biden speaking on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin US President Joe Biden speaking on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin  (ANSA)

Russia warns US of possible breakdown in relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned U.S. President Joe Biden that imposing new sanctions on Russia over Ukraine will completely break down relations between the two nuclear powers. Putin made the comments in a 50-minute phone call with Biden on Thursday.

By Stefan J. Bos

The phone call between presidents Putin and Biden came amid the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War officially ended three decades ago.

Putin has massed more than 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and wants the U.S.-led NATO military alliance to pull back their forces in the region.

He also demands that Ukraine not join NATO, but the alliance has responded that if for Kyiv to decide.

President Putin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said the Russian leader warned Biden to rethink sanctions. Putin noted that a U.S. threat to impose sanctions would lead to a breakdown in relations between the two nuclear powers.

Police adviser Ushakov quoted Putin telling Biden: "Russia would act as America would act if offensive weapons were placed near American borders."

Economic pain

President Putin also warned that any large-scale economic sanctions would be a "colossal mistake."

However, the White House said Biden told Putin that the U.S. was ready to exact substantial economic pain through sanctions should Putin decide to invade Ukraine.

A White House statement stressed that Biden "made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively" should that happen.

Despite sharp differences, Putin's policy adviser claimed the conversation had created "a positive background" for further Russian-U.S negotiations in January.

But without compromises being announced, Ukraine and the region face a tense New Year.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report


31 December 2021, 16:11