It was a high voltage interview.

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin had a two-hour exchange on Tuesday, with the main issue being the fear of an escalation in Ukraine.

Joe Biden told Vladimir Putin that the United States and its allies "would respond with strong economic measures, among others, in the event of military escalation", according to a statement released in the wake of the White House.

“We didn't get to see one another at the G20.

I hope next time we meet we do it in person, ”Biden says to Putin.

pic.twitter.com/GQnwWEUThv

- annmarie hordern (@annmarie) December 7, 2021

The discussion between the American and Russian presidents began at 3:07 p.m. GMT sharp, according to Washington, with an exchange of courtesies broadcast by Russian television.

"It's good to see you again.

We did not have the opportunity to meet at the G20, I hope that the next time we will see each other in person, ”said Joe Biden.

"I greet you, Mr. President," said Vladimir Putin, smiling, seated at a long table, in front of a screen on which his counterpart appeared.

The Russian president was in his residence in Sochi, a seaside resort by the Black Sea.

The American president took part in the conversation from the “Situation Room” of the White House, an ultra-secure room from where the American executive controls sensitive military interventions, and closed to journalists.

Western United Front

The United States, accused of going it alone during the withdrawal from Afghanistan and of carrying out certain international issues without too much regard for its allies, insist heavily on their close coordination with the Europeans and the Ukrainians.

Joe Biden will phone French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Ministers Mario Draghi and British Boris Johnson on Tuesday after his exchange with Vladimir Putin.

He had already spoken to these same allies on Monday and agreed to stay "in close contact".

Joe Biden must also, in the coming days, report on the conversation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the US executive announced on Monday.

The hope of the American president to establish a "stable" and "predictable" relationship with Russia, expressed in June during a summit in person between the two men in Geneva, seems to have lived, at least for the moment.

Moscow denies any invasion plan

Washington, NATO and Kiev accuse Moscow of massing troops on the border with Ukraine in order to attack the country.

The scenario is reminiscent of 2014 and the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, then the outbreak in eastern Ukraine of an armed conflict which left more than 13,000 dead.

The Kremlin denies any plans for an invasion. And Moscow accuses Washington of neglecting its own concerns: the increased activity of NATO countries in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian desire to join the Atlantic alliance and Kiev's ambition to arm itself with the West. "Russia never intended to attack anyone, but we have red lines," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov assured Monday.

Many observers, in Europe and the United States, believe that Vladimir Putin is bluffing with the deployment of forces on the borders of Ukraine, but few completely rule out the hypothesis of an attack.

If Moscow were to take action, a senior White House official warned that the United States "would respond favorably" to a demand for an increased American military presence in Eastern Europe and would give more support to the Ukrainian army.

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