Speaking to the nation Tuesday after Russia announced it was removing some troops from military exercises that have raised fears of an invasion of Ukraine, President Biden said the U.S. has not verified the withdrawal.
“An invasion remains a distinctly possible,” he said, which is why he has asked all Americans in Ukraine to leave.
The U.S. also has temporarily moved its embassy from Kiev to the western border city of Lvov, Biden said at the White House.
He vowed a “rapid response” from the world if Russia were to invade its neighbor to the west.
Putin’s big issue is Ukraine’s desire to become a member of NATO, regarding such a move as a threat to Russia’s security.
In his address, Biden emphasized that the U.S., NATO and Ukraine are not a threat to Russia.
“To the citizens of Russia, you are not our enemy, and I do not believe you want a bloody war with Ukraine,” he said, noting the two countries have a shared heritage.
He concluded: “Let there be no doubt, if Russia commits this breach by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond. If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we will surely pay a steeper price tomorrow.”
NATO membership ‘not on the agenda’
Putin said Tuesday he’s willing to negotiate with the U.S. and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency in Europe, the Associated Press reported.
The Russian president, after talks Tuesday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said the U.S. and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet states to join the Western military alliance.
However, Scholz apparently has ruled out NATO membership for Ukraine, at least for now.
“The fact is that all involved know that NATO membership for Ukraine is not on the agenda,” the German chancellor said after his talks with Putin.
“Everyone must step back a bit here and be clear that we can’t have a military conflict over a question that is not on the agenda,” Scholz said.
Russia: ‘The day Western war propaganda failed’
The Russian Ministry of Defense released images Tuesday it says are of Russian troops returning to their bases.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mocked the Western nations’ warnings of an invasion.
“15 February, 2022, will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed,” she said. “Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot fired.”
However, on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “The only thing I’ll believe is when they move the troops away from the border, words are easy. What they need to do is move the troops away from the border.”
The State Department said that in a conversation Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “reiterated our ongoing concerns that Russia has the capacity to launch an invasion of Ukraine at any moment and emphasized the need to see verifiable, credible, meaningful de-escalation.”
“He underscored that, while further Russian aggression against Ukraine would result in a swift, severe, and united Transatlantic response, we remain committed to the diplomatic path and believe that a window remains to resolve the crisis peacefully,” the State Department said.
The U.S. sent 500 troops to Poland on Tuesday as part of the 3,000 ordered last week by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in response to the Ukraine crisis, Fox News reported.
The harsh truth
Biden and other Western leaders have said that among the consequences of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be shelving the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is so valuable to energy-dependent Germany. But the German chancellor has not stated equivocally that he would agree to sacrificing the pipeline, noted veteran foreign policy specialist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in his column in the Daily Telegraph of London.
He wrote that it was Scholz’s turn Tuesday to repeat the West’s warnings to Moscow of “devastating consequences,” albeit “meekly in his case.”
Evans-Pritchard pointed out that the Kremlin may be prepared to weather economic sanctions.
Under Putin’s “tight ship,” he wrote, Russia has amassed foreign exchange reserves of $635 billion, the fifth highest in the world and rising. And Russia’s national debt of 18% of GDP, the sixth lowest in the world, and falling.
The harsh truth, the Telegraph columnist writes, was summed up by Russia’s ambassador to Sweden in an interview with the Aftonbladet newspaper.
“Excuse my language, but we couldn’t give a s*** about Western sanctions.”
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