Biden warns of 'disaster for Russia' if it further invades Ukraine

·4 min read

President Biden on Wednesday warned that Russia would face "disaster" if it launches a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine but appeared to offer some consolations to offset tensions and avoid all-out war.

"I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does," the president said, signaling the concern over repercussions on the U.S. and its allies if it is forced to impose significant economic sanctions on Russia that are likely to cut it off from the international finance market.

"I want to be clear with you, the serious imposition of sanctions relative to dollar transactions and other things, are things that are going to have a negative impact on the United States, as well as negative impacts on the economies of Europe as well, a devastating impact on Russia," Biden said.

"I've got to make sure everyone's on the same page as we move along."

The president's remarks come as his top aides are carrying out a flurry of diplomacy to ensure the U.S. is united with allies and partners in Europe and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to impose costs on Russia if it takes aggressive action against Ukraine.

"It's very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page and that's what I'm spending a lot of time doing. And there are differences, there are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do depending on what happens, the degree to which they're able to go," Biden said, suggesting that other types of aggression, such as cyberattacks or disinformation campaigns, could be met with a response other than a massive economic sanctions package.

"If they actually do what they're capable of doing, with the forces it's massed on the border, it's going to be a disaster for Russia," the president said. "If they further invade Ukraine ... our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy."

Biden's top aides have heightened their rhetoric that the risk of a Russian offensive against Ukraine could happen at any time, with Putin having massed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine's eastern border and moving military hardware to Belarus, which sits on Ukraine's northern border.

The president and his officials have not fully detailed what a package of sanctions on Russia would amount to, but it is said to include sanctioning Russian financial institutions and industries, blocking certain exports from strategic industries, increasing defensive military assistance to Ukraine and sending U.S. troops to bolster NATO forces along its eastern flank with Russia.

Russian officials who have said they do not intend to invade Ukraine, have moved their troops to the border as part of regular military exercises, but also as a means to push back against what they say are security concerns emanating from Ukraine.

Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014 and supports proxy forces in Ukraine's Donbass region in the east over the course of an eight-year war.

The U.S. dismisses Russian allegations that Ukraine is provoking conflict, calling it a disinformation and propaganda campaign, but has emphasized that diplomatic talks can address concerns held in both Washington and Moscow, such as limiting arms deployments on the continent and increased transparency around the size and scope of military exercises.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday in Geneva, following meetings in Ukraine and Germany this week, and that follows three diplomatic engagements between the U.S., European nations and the Russians in Europe last week.

Russia has also issued demands that NATO cease expansion, saying Ukraine's application to the alliance is a direct threat to its security.

Administration officials have roundly rejected closing NATO's so-called open door, but Biden on Wednesday said that Ukraine is not likely to join the alliance in the "near term," given more work the country needs to carry out on fortifying its democracy and whether major allies are willing to vote for its ascent to the alliance.

"So there's room to work if he wants to do that," Biden said, referring to Putin.

"I believe he's calculating what the immediate, short-term and the near-term and the long-term consequences [for] Russia will be and I don't think he's made up his mind yet," the president added.

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