WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden said Tuesday that a Russian attack on Ukraine remains “very much” a possibility, but that a diplomatic solution to the crisis could yet be reached.
If Russia invades, he warned, the United States is “ready to go” with punishing sanctions. Nevertheless, Biden said, “we should give the diplomacy every chance to succeed.”
In a nationally televised speech, Biden said the United States estimates that 150,000 Russian troops now encircle Ukraine, a higher number than previous estimates of about 100,000. He said reports that some forces had withdrawn were welcome, but they were unverified and an invasion remained very much a possibility.
Biden said diplomacy remains a live option to wind down the crisis and urged Russia to engage. If Russia invades Ukraine, the United States and its allies are prepared to respond with penalties aimed at exacting economic pain and global isolation, he said.
“The United States is prepared no matter what happens,” he said.
Much of Biden’s remarks were aimed squarely at Putin, who has demanded that NATO not accept Ukraine as a member and stop any further eastward expansion. Biden’s threats of repercussions for Russia have yet to persuade Putin to back down.
“The United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia. Ukraine is not threatening Russia. Neither the U.S. nor NATO have missiles in Ukraine. We do not, do not have plans to put them there as well. We are not targeting the people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia,” said Biden.
The American president also appealed directly to Russian citizens.
“To the citizens of Russia: you are not our enemy, and I don’t believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine,” Biden said.
The human and strategic costs would be “immense” for Russia if it attacks, he said. “The world would not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction,” Biden said.
The president said the United States is “not seeking direct confrontation with Russia” and that American soldiers were not going to fight in Ukraine. But, he said if Russia were to attack Americans in Ukraine, “we will respond forcefully.”
He warned that a Russian invasion would cause “consequences here at home,” including energy costs.
The speech came on a day that Ukraine said it had been hit by a cyberattack and appeared to blame Russia.
Biden issued a warning for Russia not to engage in cyberattacks.
“If Russia attacks the United States or our allies through asymmetric means like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we’re prepared to respond,” he said.


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