President Joe Biden said Friday that he is crafting a “comprehensive and meaningful” plan to deter Russia, which has built up its military forces along its border with Ukraine, from invading.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has staged more than 94,000 Russian troops near Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials. The buildup is sparking concerns in the West that Russia is planning a large-scale military operation next month to retake the country, which was part of the Soviet Union until 1991.
Asked what he is doing to respond to Russia’s escalation, Biden said his team, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, have been in “constant contact” with allies in Europe and Ukraine.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he will do. That’s in play right now,” he said at the White House following remarks on the November jobs report.
While Biden gave no more details, his wording seems to suggest a whole-of-government approach including diplomatic, economic, political, and military pressure tactics.
Yuri Ushakov, the Russian foreign affairs advisor, said Friday that Putin and Biden will speak by phone in coming days, the Associated Press reported. During that call, Putin is expected to demand a legally binding commitment that NATO will not expand to the east and add any more members that were former Soviet Union territories. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but the alliance signaled at a 2008 summit that it will eventually invite Kiev to join.
On Wednesday, Blinken promised “serious consequences” for Russia if it moves forward with a military operation against Ukraine.
“Should Russia follow the path of confrontation when it comes to Ukraine, we’ve made clear that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past,” he said in Latvia at a NATO ministerial.
The following day, he met with his Russian counterpart in Stockholm to demand that Russia pull back its troops.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said Tuesday that “there will be a high price to pay” for Russia if they attack Ukraine. The alliance has not had any cooperation with Russia since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea.
“We have demonstrated over the years in reaction to Russia’s previous use of military force against Ukraine that we can sustain heavy economic and financial sanctions, political sanctions,” Stoltenberg said. “Also the fact that we have increased our presence there in the region, both in the Black Sea region but also in the Baltic region, in the air, on land and at sea, is a direct reaction to the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea.”
Stoltenberg was also careful to point out that the alliance’s commitment to allies is different from its support for allies. NATO has a duty under Article 5 to respond if an ally is attacked, but because Ukraine is not a member, the alliance will provide only training and equipment, he said.
On Tuesday, Putin warned that deploying NATO troops and weapons to Ukraine would cross a “red line” and provide a response from Moscow.
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