WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden said the door is still open for diplomacy, but he’s “convinced” Russia will invade Ukraine. At a news briefing Friday, he reiterated no U.S. troops would fight in Ukraine, but America would provide support.
Russia probably has massed between 169,000 and 190,000 personnel in and near Ukraine, up from about 100,000 on Jan. 30, said Michael Carpenter, the permanent U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In addition to troops along the border in neighboring Belarus and in Crimea, he said the estimate includes Russian-led forces in eastern Ukraine and also internal security units deployed to these areas. It was unclear if these forces were included in the most recent estimate of 150,000 troops.
The president said assertions from the Kremlin that Ukraine is preparing an attack of its own are false. “It defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with 150,000 troops on its border, to escalate a yearlong conflict,” he said Friday.
There is a planned meeting on Feb. 24 between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. However, Biden said military action before then will signal the end of diplomacy.
“If Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a needless and catastrophic war of choice,” Biden said Friday.
This comes as Vice President Kamala Harris heralded NATO unity during the escalating Ukraine crisis and warned Russia that the U.S. and Western allies stood ready to respond with tough sanctions if President Vladimir Putin moves forward with an invasion of Ukraine.
In a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as the annual Munich Security Conference got underway, Harris thanked the alliance for “all that you have done” throughout the crisis.
“We remain, of course, open to and desirous of diplomacy, as it relates to the dialogue and the discussions we have had with Russia, but we are also committed, if Russia takes aggressive action, to ensure there will be severe consequence in terms of the sanctions we have discussed,” Harris told Stoltenberg. “And we know the alliance is strong in that regard.”
Biden warned Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. “will rally the world to oppose its aggression.”
“We are not seeking direct conflict with Russia,” Biden said, and that war would be a “war of choice” and a “self-inflicted wound.”
The U.S. Senate voted Thursday overwhelmingly to show unwavering support for an independent Ukraine and “condemn” Russian military aggression toward its neighbor, but declined to pass sanctions amid partisan gridlock.