Administration

Biden: Sending US troops to Ukraine ‘not on the table’

President Biden on Wednesday said the United States is not considering sending troops to Ukraine amid rising fears about the possibility of a Russian military invasion.

“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters at the White House before departing for a trip to Kansas City, Mo.

“We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5, it’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to … Ukraine,” he added. 

Biden said it would “depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well” but rejected the idea that the U.S. would “unilaterally use force to confront Russia” if it were to invade. 

The president’s comments came a day after his tense two-hour virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which White House officials said the American president warned his Russian counterpart of harsh economic sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine.

Biden on Wednesday described the meeting as “straightforward” and said there were no “minced words” with Putin.

“I made it very clear, if in fact he invades Ukraine there will be severe consequences,” Biden said, adding that the Russian president would incur economic penalties “like none he has ever seen.” 

Asked if Putin got the message, Biden replied, “I am absolutely confident that he got the message.” 

Biden has urged Putin to de-escalate through diplomatic conversations with the United States and other European countries. He told reporters he hoped the U.S. would announce high-level conversations between Russia and other NATO allies by the end of the week “to discuss the future of Russia’s concern relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we could work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down temperature along the eastern front,” without elaborating further.

“The positive news is that thus far our teams have been in constant contact,” Biden said.

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine, raising concerns about the prospect of Moscow launching a military incursion similar to what it did in 2014 when it seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Russia has tried to paint Ukraine and NATO as the aggressors and demanded a legally binding commitment that NATO not expand eastward to include Ukraine, which is not currently a member of the alliance. U.S. and European officials have refused to make such commitments.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could result in the U.S. sending additional forces to NATO’s eastern flank. Sullivan also said the U.S. would provide additional defensive assistance to Kyiv, beyond what is already being provided. But Biden’s remarks on Wednesday made clear that he would draw the line there, unless other NATO countries stepped up to defend Ukraine.

“The United States is not currently considering using unilateral force to confront Russia,” White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One following Biden’s comments. “That is not our current focus, but we are preparing for all contingencies, as we have been doing for weeks now.”

Jean-Pierre reiterated that Biden laid out to Putin that there will be “significant and severe consequences if he chooses to further invade Ukraine.”

Still, it remains unclear whether Biden’s actions will be enough to take down tensions and deter Russia from invading Ukraine, and officials say that it will ultimately be up to Russia to de-escalate the situation.

“The ball is in the court of President Putin,” Jean-Pierre said. “The goal here is de-escalation. The goal here is to go down a path of diplomacy.” 

Updated 1:28 p.m.

Tags Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre Russia-Ukraine conflict Vladimir Putin

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