President Joe Biden on Wednesday insisted that sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to fend off a Russian invasion is “not on the table” but still promised a strong American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin if such a military advance occurs.
“I made it very clear, if in fact he invaded Ukraine, there will be severe consequences,” Biden told reporters. “There will be economic consequences like none he’s ever seen, or ever have been seen.”
The comments came just one day after a two-hour video call between the two world leaders that White House officials deemed a “useful” meeting.
Tensions between Russia and western nations have risen in recent months as Russian military forces have massed along the Ukraine border. Ukrainian military officials have said they expect a military invasion of their country as early as next month.
Biden said he was “polite” but “clear” in his message to Putin that such military aggression is unacceptable.
But the U.S. commander-in-chief also said that “the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now.”
Instead, American military forces are likely to reinforce their presence in NATO countries in the region, and provide additional defensive capabilities to Ukrainian military leaders, Biden said.
“The positive news is that, thus far, our teams have been in constant contact,” he said. “We hope by Friday we’re going to be able to announce that we’re having meetings at a higher level, not just with [the U.S. and Russia] but with at least four of our major NATO allies, to discuss Russia’s concerns.”
Russian officials said in a statement after Tuesday’s call that NATO has been “making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory” and that their military actions are simply a response to that.
Putin has asked for a commitment from NATO leaders that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the military alliance. Thus far, they have made no such promise to the Russian leader.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that U.S. intelligence officials believe Putin has not yet decided whether to go ahead with an invasion of Ukraine, and that the call between the two world leaders was designed to show “an alternative path” for Putin to calm tensions in the region.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.