WASHINGTON ― President Joe Biden on Tuesday welcomed Russian overtures toward ending a crisis in Ukraine, but reiterated that he was ready to respond with overwhelming economic sanctions if an invasion occurs.
“We should give diplomacy every chance to succeed,” Biden said in brief remarks from the East Room of the White House. “We will not sacrifice basic principles, though.”
Those principles, he said, include Ukraine’s sovereignty and its right to territorial integrity.
“The United States is prepared no matter what happens,” he said, noting that “an invasion remains distinctly possible.”
Biden made clear to Americans that he has no intention of sending U.S. troops to Ukraine, though he has approved the training of Ukrainian troops and the transfer of weapons to the country. He also warned that should an invasion take place, there would be economic consequences in the United States, including higher gas prices.
“I will not pretend this will not be painless,” he said, adding that he would try to alleviate such pain as best he could. Nevertheless, he said that in the event Russia invades, a response would be necessary. “If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we’ll surely pay a steeper price tomorrow.”
Biden also at one point spoke directly to Russian citizens. “We’re not targeting the people of Russia,” he said. “We do not seek to destabilize Russia. To the citizens of Russia, you are not our enemy. And I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine, a country and a people with whom you share such deep ties of family, history and culture.”
Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin, following a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had indicated that he was ready for talks regarding Ukraine and military transparency. Prior to that, a Russian defense official had said some Russian troops would be leaving the area.
Biden has spent much of his time in recent weeks working to dissuade Putin from further aggressive action toward Ukraine, and urging allies in Western Europe to present a common front.
Last week, with Scholz at his side in the White House, he declared that a lucrative natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would never become operational if Putin moved further into Ukraine. “There will no longer be a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.”
Since then, he has again spoken to Putin, as well as to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, from Camp David.
Putin has amassed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border in recent months, raising fears of another invasion. In 2014, he invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which gained independence during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. He later moved into the eastern part of the country as well.
In order to pressure Putin, Biden’s administration has relied on the strategy of releasing intelligence assessments about Russia’s preparations and its likely intentions. Last month, for example, the administration made public indications that Russia intended to release a video depicting a fake Ukrainian attack on its forces ― including actors playing corpses ― to justify an incursion.
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