Feb 13, 2022 - World

Biden and Zelensky agree on importance of "diplomacy and deterrence" amid Russia buildup

President Biden speaks on the phone to his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office on Dec. 9. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday "agreed on the importance of continuing to pursue diplomacy and deterrence," the White House said in a readout of the call.

Why it matters: The 50-minute call comes a day after Biden spoke by phone with Vladimir Putin, warning the Russian president that the U.S. and allies will "respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs" if Russia invades Ukraine.

State of play: Biden and Zelensky have not always been on the same page regarding how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be.

  • "We have seen over the course of the past 10 days a dramatic acceleration in the buildup of Russian forces," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
  • He said "the disposition of those forces" suggests Russia could attack "essentially at any time." But, "it still awaits the go order."
  • Biden "made clear that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, together with its Allies and partners, to any further Russian aggression against Ukraine," according to a readout of the call.

Go deeper: Biden tells Putin that Ukraine invasion would cause "irrevocable damage"

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