US troops to Ukraine ‘not on the table’

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President Biden said Wednesday he would not deploy US troops to Ukraine to deter a possible Russian invasion, telling reporters the option was “not on the table.”

Biden added as he departed the White House for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. that he informed Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Tuesday call between the leaders that there would be “severe consequences” if Moscow orders an attack.

When asked about the Putin call, Biden initially joked to a reporter that the Russian leader “asked about you a lot, he talked about you a lot.”

When the reporter pressed, “can you answer my question,” the president turned serious.

“I was very straightforward. There were no minced words. It was polite, but I made it very clear,” Biden said. “If, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen.”

The president added that the US would not send forces to Ukraine because the former Soviet republic is not a US treaty ally — though the US has provided Kiev with military aid and training over the past decade to counter Russia. The US and Russia are also signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which both nations pledged to honor the borders of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. 

Biden speaking with the press before leaving for Kansas City, MO on Wednesday.
Biden speaking with the press before leaving for Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday.
AFP via Getty Images

“If in fact [Russia invades], we would probably also be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure — particularly those on the eastern flank,” Biden said. “In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well.”

“The positive news is that thus far, our teams have been in constant contact. We hope by Friday we’re going to be able to say… we’re having meetings at a higher level, not just with us, but what’s the — [at] least four of our major NATO allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia’s concerns relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we could work out any accommodation as it relates to bringing down the temperature.”

A reporter then asked the president if “US troops [are] needed on the ground in and around Ukraine to stop an invasion? Will you rule that out or is that on the table?” 

“That is not on the table,” Biden said firmly.

“We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they [Russia] were to attack under Article Five. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to NATO — I mean to Ukraine. But it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well. But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on the cards right now. But what will happen is, there will be severe consequences.”

Putin pictured during Tuesday's two-hour call with President Biden.
Putin pictured during Tuesday’s two-hour call with President Biden.
AP

Biden also said that he believes Putin heard his warning clearly, telling reporters: “I am absolutely confident he got the message.”

Biden spoke with Putin for two hours on Tuesday and intends to speak Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who recently alleged a pro-Russia coup plot against him.

Russia has massed thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders in recent months as part of what US officials fear could be a prelude to an invasion.

Republicans have repeatedly blasted Biden for allowing Russia to complete construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is nearly operational. The White House waived sanctions against the project in May, with Biden citing the fact that the project was “almost completely finished”.

Satellite image showing the position of Russian troops in Crimea, where they are planning a possible invasion of Ukraine.
Satellite image showing the position of Russian troops in Crimea, where they are possibly planning an invasion of Ukraine.
AP

The pipeline will allow Russia to send natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and depriving the Kiev government of lucrative gas transfer fees. Critics say it will enhance Moscow’s leverage over its western neighbor.

“Biden could stop this today if he simply revokes … the [sanctions] waiver and imposes sanctions and he’s unwilling to do so,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Fox News Wednesday. “If we see tanks in the streets of Kiev. It will be because Joe Biden surrendered to Putin.”

Biden was vice president during the 2014 Russian invasion and annexation of the province of Crimea, formerly part of southern Ukraine, and the beginning of a civil war waged by two pro-Russia breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine.

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