WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion of Ukraine, and warned that “a disaster” awaits Russia if that happened.
Biden’s remarks came after intelligence agencies warned such an attack could happen within a month.
“My guess is he will move in, he has to do something,” Biden said when asked about the more than 100,000 Russian troops positioned along Ukraine’s border.
“It is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. Our allies and partners are ready to impose a severe cost on Russia and the Russian economy,” Biden said during his second solo news conference since he took office.
“And I think he’ll regret having done it,” Biden said of a possible invasion.
Later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki elaborated on Biden’s answers to questions about Ukraine and Russia.
“President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies,” Psaki said. “President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”
For months, the West has watched an extraordinary deployment of Russian forces and equipment to the eastern border with Ukraine.
The buildup has evoked Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions against Moscow. The seizure of Crimea also saw Russia’s removal from the Group of 8, or G-8, referring to the eight major global economies.
The Kremlin has previously defended the troop movement as a military exercise and denied that it was preparing for an attack against Ukraine. Moscow meanwhile has asked that Ukraine’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization be denied.
Last week, Russian officials reiterated to NATO members and U.S. officials that it is “absolutely mandatory to make sure that Ukraine never, never, ever becomes a member of NATO.”
“We need ironclad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees. Not assurances, not safeguards, but guarantees,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters during a Jan. 10 press conference.
Since 2002, Ukraine has sought entry into NATO, where the group’s Article 5 clause states that an attack on one member country is considered an attack on all of them.
The Biden administration alongside NATO members maintain they cannot accommodate such a request from the Kremlin.
When asked about presenting a united front against Russia, Biden downplayed concerns that Washington and European allies won’t be able to agree on a joint sanctions package should Moscow pursue aggression.
“He’s never seen sanctions like the ones I promised,” the president said of Putin, adding that Moscow will “pay a stiff price immediately, near term, medium-term and long term.”
Biden’s remarks come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs Kyiv following meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
While in Kyiv, Blinken worked to reaffirm America’s support and commitment to Ukraine as the West awaits Putin’s next move.
“It is up to Ukrainians and no one else to decide their own future and the future of this country,” Blinken said before meeting behind closed doors with Zelenskyy.
Later this week, Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva.