Biden meets privately with national security team on Russia-Ukraine crisis
President Biden was meeting privately with his national security team and receiving regular updates on the Russia-Ukraine crisis on Monday, the White House said, as the U.S. braces for a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“President Biden is meeting with his national security team at the White House today and is being regularly briefed on developments regarding Russia and Ukraine,” a White House official said.
The White House gave the update as news broke that Russian President Vladimir Putin would recognize two territories in Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, as independent.
Monday was a federal holiday, President’s Day, and Biden had nothing on his public schedule. Biden spent the weekend meeting with his national security team about Russia’s rising aggression toward Ukraine.
Biden told reporters on Friday that he believed Putin had made his mind up to invade Ukraine. The U.S. has warned that an invasion could happen at any moment, given the substantial Russian military buildup of as many as 190,000 troops in and around Ukraine.
The Kremlin said Monday that Putin would sign a decree recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk, which are in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and controlled by Russian-backed separatists, as independent. Experts believe that the move is likely to trigger conflict.
The U.S. has threatened Moscow with harsh international sanctions if it invades Ukraine. Biden administration officials have offered few specifics about a sanctions package, though the measures are expected to target Russian banks and state-owned businesses as well as Kremlin-connected individuals.
In a last-ditch bid to avert conflict, the White House said Sunday that Biden agreed “in principle” to meet with Putin following an engagement between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart so long as Russia does not invade Ukraine.
But it’s unclear whether such a meeting will take place as signs pointed to an escalation of the crisis on Monday.