U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would not order the deployment of American troops to Ukraine to counter a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“That is not on the table,” Biden told reporters on the White House South Lawn. “The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now. But what will happen is there will be severe consequences that will happen.”
Biden’s remarks came one day after meeting virtually for two hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after which he said the United States and its European allies have “deep concerns” about Moscow massing troops near the border it shares with Ukraine and would respond with “strong” economic sanctions if Russia invades the country.
But even without the prospect of sending in U.S. troops, top White House and Pentagon officials insisted Wednesday there are still ways Washington could bolster Kyiv’s defense.
“There are options to expand security assistance to assist in Ukraine’s self-defense,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told a virtual security summit, pointing to the ongoing provision of ammunition, javelin anti-tank systems, counter mortar radars and other capabilities.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan further defended the administration’s assistance.
“What it means to be proactive is to set the table,” Sullivan told the summit. “We have gone above and beyond what any administration has done in terms of providing the kinds of defensive support to the Ukrainian military well in advance of any contingency that might happen.”
“We are working with them across the board and that does include the kinds of anti-armor, defensive weaponry that is central to their planning for how they would try to resist a substantial incursion,” he said.
The U.S. president also said Wednesday, before leaving for Kansas City to tout his new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, he hoped to announce meetings “at a higher level” with Russia and other NATO countries by Friday.
According to the Kremlin, Putin emphasized to Biden the lack of progress by Ukraine in implementing the 2015 Minsk agreement, which was meant to stop the fighting in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, and he raised “serious concerns about the provocative actions of Kyiv in the Donbass.”
The Russian leader accused NATO “of making dangerous attempts to conquer Ukrainian territory” and of building up its military capabilities near the Russian border, according to the Kremlin.
The Washington Post reported last Friday that Russia is planning a multifront offensive into Ukraine involving up to 175,000 troops as early as next year, citing U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by the newspaper.
Biden said that same day he has been developing a set of initiatives that will make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to escalate the situation at the border.
In turn, Moscow has suggested the U.S. and Ukraine might launch their own offensive.