US President Joe Biden issues stern warning to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine
President Joe Biden predicted on Wednesday that Russia would invade Ukraine, just as the United States launched a new effort to resolve the standoff and Moscow continued to mass troops on its neighbor’s doorstep.
“I guess he’s going to move in, he has to do something,” Biden said at a press conference marking his first year in office, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine.
Watch the video above to see why fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine are growing
Mr Biden’s statement was striking given the escalating tensions there and the continued efforts of America and its allies to find a diplomatic solution.
Mr Biden said Mr Putin “will be held accountable” and has “never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed” if Russia takes further action against Ukraine.
He added that the United States would increase its troops in the region, including in Poland, in accordance with NATO treaty obligations.
“We believe we are now at a stage where Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine at any time” – Jen Psaki, White House press secretary.
But Mr Biden appeared to cover his threats, distinguishing between a “minor incursion” and a full-scale attack.
“And it depends on what he does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight over what to do and what not to do,” Biden added.
If Mr Putin invades, “it’s the biggest thing that’s happened in the world since World War II,” Mr Biden said.
Mr. Biden shared some of his thoughts on Mr. Putin’s thinking.
“I think the side of the bed he gets up on in the morning matters to what he’s going to do,” he added.
Negotiations to defuse
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Kyiv this week to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of a hastily organized diplomatic mission that signaled the urgency of the crisis.
Mr Blinken was also due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, even after a flurry of talks last week produced no breakthrough and dashed hopes of de-escalation.
As Europe faces one of its biggest security crises since the Cold War, Washington’s warning that a Russian attack could come “at any moment” echoed in the wintry air when Mr Blinken arrived on the mainland early Wednesday.
“I think the side of the bed he gets up on in the morning is important to what he’s going to do” – US President Joe Biden
Speaking to diplomats at the US Embassy in Kyiv, Mr Blinken echoed those concerns, warning that Moscow’s troop build-up would allow Mr Putin to launch an attack “at very short notice”. .
Mr Biden’s top diplomat added that he strongly hoped Russia could stick to a peaceful course, Reuters reported. The Russian buildup, he said, was taking place without “provocation, without reason”, according to the agency.
In a subsequent meeting with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Blinken said Ukraine faced an “unprecedented” threat. He reiterated Washington’s commitment to the country’s territorial integrity and repeated warnings that further Russian aggression would have “very serious consequences”.
While in Kyiv, Blinken will also meet with U.S. Embassy employees and their families to discuss efforts “to plan for contingencies” should Russia choose to step up further, his Department of Security said. State.
US senators visit Ukraine
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators informed Mr. Biden of their trip to Ukraine this week meet Mr. Zelensky, who preceded Mr. Blinken’s visit.
“Democrats and Republicans must remain united on the urgent need to support Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and pro-democracy aspirations,” New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen tweeted on Wednesday.
“Now we must together find a way forward that meets these needs and holds Putin to account.”
After speaking with Mr. Biden on Wednesday morning, a group of U.S. Republican Party senators, some of whom were on the weekend trip to Ukraine, accused the administration of not doing enough to deter Russia.
Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the United States should quickly provide additional aid and strengthen Ukraine’s defenses.
The Biden administration, he said, is “three months behind where it should be right now.”
Republican Senator from Ohio Rob Portman, who led the trip to Ukraine with Ms Shaheen, also said that in addition to imposing sanctions, the United States must let Russia know that it would provide additional military defenses and lethal weapons to Ukraine.
“That’s the kind of deterrence we need right now” to avoid an invasion of Ukraine and the destabilization of Europe, he said.
On Tuesday, US White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said an “extremely dangerous situation” was developing along the Ukrainian border.
“We believe that we are now at a stage where Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time. I would say it is more brutal than we have been,” Ms Psaki said during her daily press briefing.
Last week, the Biden administration said it had information that the Russian government was planning a “false flag” operation to justify another military incursion into its neighbor, after Russia Annex Crimea in 2014 and supported an ongoing separatist war with Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.
The growing alarm comes after inconclusive talks between Moscow and the West over Russian demands for security guarantees that the United States and its allies have consistently brushed aside.
Russian troops at the border
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border in recent months, raising fears in the West that Moscow is planning to invade. The Kremlin strongly denied such a plan.
Adding to those fears, Russian forces and equipment continued to arrive in Belarus on Tuesday for what Moscow and Minsk said was a joint military exercise scheduled for next month. The former Soviet state is a staunch ally of Moscow and borders Ukraine to the north.
A senior administration official called the arrival of Russian troops and equipment in Belarus ‘not a drill or a normal troop movement’, but ‘a show of force’ that could provide a false pretext for a crisis .
“It’s an extremely dangerous decision,” the official said in a briefing ahead of Mr Blinken’s visit. “We are now at a stage where Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time.”
But Moscow remained suspicious of its troop movements on Wednesday, with the Russian Embassy in Washington calling them a “sovereign right”.
“Once again we emphasize: Russia will not attack anyone,” the embassy said in a Facebook post.
The United States has warned Russia of disastrous economic consequences in the event of an invasion, and sought to rally allies across Europe to present a strong and united front.
After his talks with Mr. Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials, Mr. Blinken will travel to Berlin on Thursday for talks with German and European allies.