President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin during his speech on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the United States would be ready to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on the “eastern flank” of NATO, a senior administration official told reporters.
Why is this important: Administration think it is more and more likely that Putin will order an invasion.
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Biden is not threatening to respond militarily to defend Ukraine, but to hit Putin with sanctions, strengthen the defenses of NATO allies like the Baltic states, and send Ukraine more equipment to defend itself.
The big picture: Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to various locations near the border and “is stepping up planning for significant military action against Ukraine,” the senior official said on a conference call to preview the conversation Biden -Putin.
The White House has also warned that the Kremlin is stepping up a disinformation campaign against Ukraine, potentially as a pretext to blame Kiev for any military clashes.
“We do not know if President Putin has made a decision regarding further military escalation in Ukraine. But we know he is building the capacity to engage in such escalation if he decides to do so, “the official said.
The other side: Putin defined his own red lines ahead of the call, including NATO’s potential deployment of offensive missile systems on Ukrainian territory.
He is also seeking a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand eastward, including into Ukraine.
In addition, Moscow opposed NATO exercises near Russian borders and the strengthening of cooperation between the alliance and Ukraine.
Between the lines: Ukraine is seeking to become a member of the alliance and Putin is seeking guarantees that Ukraine will never be invited to join it. The two perspectives currently seem distant.
Asked if the US military could intervene directly if Russia invaded, the senior official said the United States “is not seeking to find itself in a situation where the objective of our countermeasures is the direct use of military force.”
The official reiterated that the focus would instead be on sanctions, coordinated with Europe, as well as support for the Ukrainian army and “a substantial increase in the support and capabilities of our NATO allies to ensure their safety “.
The bottom line: Putin has proven time and again that he is not deterred by Western sanctions, but he can be deterred by the high military cost of invading Ukraine, said Dmitry Trenin of Carnegie Moscow.
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