Putin throws down gauntlet to Biden as war fears boil over: ‘We have nowhere to retreat!’
Putin will ‘push US administration to edge’ says Mike Pompeo
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The Russian president told a news conference in Moscow that he was considering his options if the West reject his demand to ban Ukraine from joining NATO. Mr Putin’s demands are the latest in a string of escalating statements over the Russian troop build-up along the Ukrainian border. Earlier this month, the US president warned in a video call that Russia will face “severe consequences” if it attacks its neighbour.
Despite these strong words, more than 100,000 Russian troops remain stationed at the border, fueling fears of an invasion.
Russia claims it is acting defensively because they say NATO could deploy missiles in Ukraine that would take only four or five minutes to reach Moscow.
Mr Putin has submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back its military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
He claims Russia submitted the demands in the hope of a constructive answer from the West.
Mr Putin explained: “We didn’t do it just to see it blocked (…) but for the purpose of reaching a negotiated diplomatic result that would be fixed in legally binding documents.”
He reaffirmed that NATO membership for Ukraine or the deployment of alliance weapons there is a red line for Moscow that it wouldn’t allow the West to cross.
He said: “We have nowhere to retreat. They have pushed us to a line that we can’t cross. They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them; ‘Stop!’”
The Russian president has warned he will have to take “adequate military-technical measures” if the West continues its “aggressive” course “on the threshold of our home”.
He would not elaborate on the details of what Moscow’s response would be, but he did say “it could be diverse”.
“It will depend on what proposals our military experts submit to me,” he added.
Russia currently holds the largest share of nuclear warheads in the world, according to the latest estimates from the Nuclear Information Project and the Federation of American Scientists.
Mr Putin is estimated to have a total of 6,257 warheads, with Mr Biden on 5,550 and Britain trailing behind with only 225.
Russia has denied any intention of launching an invasion and has accused Ukraine of trying to reclaim control of the territories held by Moscow-backed rebels by force.
Ukraine has rejected this accusation.
In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and shortly after supported a separatist rebellion in the country’s east.
Over the last seven years, the fighting has killed more than 14,000 people and devastated Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as Donbas.
Mr Biden, Boris Johnson and other European leaders have agreed on the need for ongoing dialogue with Russia aimed at ending its threatening behaviour towards Ukraine.
A senior US official told France24 that Washington was “ready to engage in diplomacy as soon as early January”, both bilaterally and through “multiple channels”.
Echoing this time scale, a German government official confirmed that Moscow and Berlin had agreed to a meeting in “early January”.
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