The two leaders took part in a 90-minute phone call Dec. 9 two days after Biden held a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Biden told Putin the United States and its allies would respond “with strong economic and other measures” in the event of a Russian military escalation against Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have estimated more than 90,000 Russian troops are near its border and in Russian-occupied Crimea.
U.S. officials have said the military buildup, along with a spike in anti-Ukrainian activity on social media, harkens back to a “similar playbook” used by Putin in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea.
According to a White House readout of Thursday’s call with Zelensky, “The leaders called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and agreed that diplomacy is the best way to make meaningful progress on conflict resolution.
“President Biden underscored the readiness of the United States to engage in support of confidence-building measures to advance the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, in support of the Normandy Format.”
Biden also voiced concerns about Russian aggression towards Ukraine and reiterated a pledge that the United States and its Allies “would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of a further [Russian] military intervention.”
Biden also took part in a phone call with Bucharest 9 nations Thursday—a group of NATO countries on the military alliance’s eastern flank. Those countries are Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
On that call, Biden made clear that these threats are bigger than Ukraine and reaffirmed his support to transatlantic security and reiterated the sacred commitment, as he describes it, of the United States to Article 5, to transatlantic security, to NATO, and especially to our eastern flank allies, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday after the call.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that, along with imposing financial sanctions, the United States would “provide additional defensive material” to Ukraine and “fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities” if Russia invaded.
During both the call with Zelensky and the Bucharest 9 Biden offered a readout of his call with Putin.
Following the Putin call Tuesday, Biden debriefed European allies, including France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.