By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Joe Biden has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the U.S. and its allies will “respond decisively” if Russia further invades Ukraine, according to a White House statement on January 2.
Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in the statement, which came after the two leaders spoke by phone.
“The leaders expressed support for diplomatic efforts, starting next week with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,” Psaki said.
The first of the three high-level U.S. and Russian talks are set for January 9-10 in Geneva.
Zelenskiy noted that the call came early in 2022 and said he and Biden discussed the cooperation between the United States and Ukraine and other partners.
“The first international talk of the year with @POTUS proves the special nature of our relations,” Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter. He said he and Biden discussed the joint actions of Ukraine, the United States “and partners in keeping peace in Europe, preventing further escalation, reforms, deoligarchization.
“We appreciate the unwavering support of Ukraine,” he added.
The call was the second in three weeks between the two leaders as the White House attempts to address a Russian troop buildup that has alarmed NATO, while authorities in Kyiv have expressed concerns that Russia could invade Ukraine in the coming weeks.
The call follows on the heels of talks between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 30 in which Biden said the United States and its allies would impose severe sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine.
Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine as it makes demands for sweeping security guarantees from the United States and NATO.
In particular, Moscow wants NATO to deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
During their call on December 30, Biden and Putin set the groundwork for three sets of upcoming talks aimed at defusing the crisis.
The talks in Geneva next week are to discuss arms control and the mounting tensions over Ukraine under their bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue.
That will be followed by a separate meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels on January 12.
Another meeting will be held in Vienna a day later within the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States, its European allies, Ukraine, and Russia.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 31 reinforced that Russia stands by its demands for written security guarantees.
“If no constructive answer comes in a reasonable time and the West continues its aggressive course, Russia will have to take all necessary measures to maintain a strategic balance and remove unacceptable threats to our security,” he told the state news agency RIA Novosti.
The Biden administration and NATO have repeatedly said that the alliance has an open-door policy and that no country should have a veto over the aspirations of another country to join. It also has said it would not discuss Ukraine’s security without consulting Kyiv.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, reiterated Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO in an interview with RFE/RL broadcast on January 1.