In what White House officials described as a serious and substantive call between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the world leaders continued negotiations over the tense situation at the Russia-Ukraine border.

"[Biden] made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement released after the call ended. "President Biden also expressed support for diplomacy, starting early next year with the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, at NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. President Biden reiterated that substantive progress in these dialogues can occur only in an environment of de-escalation rather than escalation."


The call, which came at Putin's request, lasted for 50 minutes, with Biden joining in from his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

Administration officials described the call as a means of setting the tone and tenor for future diplomatic engagements, namely at the series of meetings scheduled for the week of Jan. 10.

Russia has amassed a significant military presence on its border with Ukraine in recent months, stirring up both rhetoric and fears of a possible invasion. The Kremlin could be planning a multi-pronged incursion that could involve up to 175,000 troops, the Washington Post reported earlier this month, citing U.S. officials and an intelligence document.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday about Russia's military presence on the Ukrainian border and also to coordinate ahead of Biden's call with Putin.

During a press call after the Biden-Putin talks ended Thursday, senior administration officials laid out scenarios for how the situation could proceed.

“Biden laid out two paths, two aspects for the U.S. approach that will depend on Russia’s actions in the path ahead,” said one official. “One is a path of diplomacy leading to deescalation, and the other is a path more focused on deterrents, including serious costs and consequences should Russia choose to proceed with further invasion of Ukraine.”

Officials stressed the United States employs a policy of "nothing about you without you," meaning it will not hold conversations about its allies without their full participation, and added that Putin understood. There are some areas where the two countries could make meaningful progress and some where that progress may be impossible, officials said, predicting the next week to 10 days would be an intense period of consultation with allies.

Thomas Graham, a distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-founder of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies program at Yale, said the Kremlin views the U.S. as the aggressor in the situation, extending its influence eastward over the last 30 years.

"They see the military aspect as a threat to Russia's national security," he said. "They want guarantees that military infrastructure won't move closer to the border in the future."

The U.S., by comparison, wants the Russians to stand down and recognize the right of Ukraine and other countries to choose the alliances they would like to join.

But Graham emphasized that he thinks the preference on both sides is to negotiate and that any alarmist rhetoric about the situation from in the media should be toned down.


Despite the talks between the two world leaders, the Biden administration has emphasized that it's paying more attention to Putin's actions than what he says.

"Our focus is really on actions and indicators, not on words, at this point," said a senior administration official. "We'll monitor the movement and buildup along the Russian border and prepare ourselves for whatever decision ultimately is made by the Russian president."