Washington: The Biden administration has once again warned Russia of “severe consequences” in case its forces invade Ukraine and said that the path for diplomacy remains available if the Kremlin chooses to engage constructively.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday (February 14) that the US is actively working to reach a diplomatic solution to de-escalate the crisis.
“Over the weekend, as you all know, the President (Joe Biden) spoke with President (Vladimir) Putin, and we remain engaged with the Russian government in full coordination with our allies and partners,” she said.
Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. The move has brought increasingly strong warnings from the West that Moscow intends to invade. However, Russia has repeatedly denied that it plans to invade Ukraine.
The path for diplomacy remains available if Russia chooses to engage constructively, Jean-Pierre said. “However, we are clear-eyed about the prospects of that, given the steps Russia is taking on the ground,” she said, as President Biden reached out to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the situation.
The White House said in a readout that Biden and Johnson discussed their recent diplomatic engagements with Ukraine and Russia.
They also reviewed the ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it said.
“They discussed efforts to reinforce the defensive posture on NATO’s eastern flank and underlined the continued close coordination among allies and partners, including on readiness to impose severe consequences on Russia should it choose further military escalation,” the White House said.
During the White House news conference, Jean-Pierre said that they are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time.
“We will not comment on any details of our intelligence information except that it could begin this week, despite a lot of speculation that it would happen after the Olympics. It remains unclear which path Russia will choose to take,” she said.
The US is ready for any situation, Jean-Pierre asserted. “President Biden has made it very clear on his call with Putin this weekend that if Russia undertakes a further invasion of Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs on Russia,” she noted.
Biden reiterated that a further Russian invasion of Ukraine would produce widespread human suffering and diminish Russia’s standing, she said.
At a separate news conference, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced that Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is going to travel to Belgium, Poland and Lithuania.
He will meet with allied defence ministers and NATO leadership to discuss Russia’s military build-up in and around Ukraine.
Russia has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as members and that the military alliance will roll back troop deployments in former Soviet bloc nations. Some of these, like the membership pledge, are nonstarters for the US and its allies, creating a seemingly intractable stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has plans to attack Ukraine, but the US and NATO are worried about Russia amassing its troops near Ukraine and conducting a series of sweeping military manoeuvres.
As part of the drills, motorised infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia recently practised firing live ammunition, warplanes in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea performed bombing runs, dozens of warships sailed for training exercises in the Black Sea and the Arctic, and Russian fighter jets and paratroopers arrived in Belarus for joint war games.