WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday outlined the U.S. response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as the world braces for a deadly military conflict that could destabilize Europe, shake the global economy and disrupt international security.
Biden announced a first round of financial sanctions and promised that Russia would pay an even higher price if it continued its aggression.
“This is the start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said. “We are ready to respond with unity, clarity and conviction.”
Biden said he authorized the additional movement of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to bolster America’s Baltic allies, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“We want to send an unequivocal message that the United States, together with our allies, will defend every square inch of NATO territory,” Biden said.
The developments pose a crucial test for Biden as he seeks to keep US allies united and craft a tough response to Putin’s bid to occupy all or part of his neighbor, essentially renegotiating an end to the Cold War.
“Now is not the time to waver and falter,” said Alina Polyakova, president and chief executive of the Center of European Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank. “What the Russians did rewrote the rules of the European security order and it will have global consequences.”
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen said it was one of the most perilous times since the end of World War II.
“I think we’re in one of the most dangerous times in our history, certainly since 1945,” Cohen told CNN. “The danger we face here is that once we take a step, and Putin responds, the cycle tends to intensify.”
Putin on Monday sent troops to two pro-Russian separatist regions in eastern Ukraine that he declared “independent” from Ukraine and in need of military protection.
Russia’s interest in the breakaway regions has always been to control all Ukrainian politics, said Ben Rhodes, who was President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
“That’s one more reason why this should only be seen as a preliminary step,” Rhodes tweeted after Putin’s announcement.
This decision followed weeks of failure diplomatic efforts to defuse the months-long standoff between Moscow and NATO countries over Ukraine’s sovereignty.
But Putin’s recent actions, including a rambling hour-long speech Monday in which he falsely claimed Ukraine was merely the product of power brokerage in the early Soviet Union, have shut down all the remaining diplomatic options, said William Pomeranz, the acting director. from the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center.
“Putin was never very subtle about what he didn’t like about the post-Cold War settlement,” Pomeranz said. “But now he’s basically torn it up and provided no sort of retreat other than full concessions from the West.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a quick and decisive response.
“The time to act to impose significant costs on President Putin and the Kremlin begins now,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., one of Biden’s closest allies in the Senate, said Monday.
The invasion raises concerns about the future of European security and triggers a wave of punitive economic sanctions that NATO leaders say would extend beyond the measures imposed on Russia after its invasion of the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday unveiled new sanctions against five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals in what Johnson called “the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do.”
And Germany has announced it will end the $11 billion Russian gas pipeline that winds west from Russia to northeast Germany for more than 700 miles under the Baltic Sea.
The costs announced by Biden included measures to cut off the Russian government from Western funding and sanctions against individual Russian “elites” and their family members.
Biden said there was still time to avoid “the worst-case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people” – but that’s up to Putin.
“I hope diplomacy is still available,” he added.
Biden and US officials have made clear they have no plans to send combat troops to Ukraine, but have pledged to send Kiev more military weapons and lethal aid in the event of an emergency. total invasion.
“It’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at each other,” Biden told NBC Nightly News earlier this month. “We are in a very different world than we have ever been in.”
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The United States recently deployed more than 4,000 troops to Poland to help bolster NATO’s eastern flank in response to Russian military buildups along the Ukrainian border.
The deployment was intended to supplement the more than 80,000 U.S. troops already in Europe on rotational and standing orders, but Biden suggested he would deploy more troops to the region in the event of an attack.
Pomeranz expects Russia to accelerate Putin’s “slow invasion” into a full-scale, multi-pronged operation.
“I foresee that a larger military operation will be introduced in Ukraine, against Kyiv and the current Ukrainian government,” he said.
Polyakova, likewise, said Russia was unlikely to stay only in the breakaway areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
While Russia may choose a “slow slide” into wider parts of Ukrainian territories, Polyakova said, the roughly 190,000 Russian troops encircling Ukraine indicate that a more aggressive move toward Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv is still on the cards. Table.
“However, our response now will determine which scenario and which path they take,” she said.
The latest developments culminate months of tensions between Moscow and NATO nations after more than 100,000 Russian troops gathered at the Ukrainian border, carrying out live ammunition military drills and sounding the alarm of a possible invasion .
Russia has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as members and that the military alliance cancel troop deployments in other former Soviet bloc countries , a region that Moscow still considers its sphere of interest. But NATO leaders refused to abandon the alliance’s open-door policy to allow any nation to join and instead offered cooperation on issues such as international security.
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A flurry of diplomatic meetings across Europe, in Moscow and Washington over the past two months ultimately failed to defuse the ongoing crisis.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that an attack by Russian ground troops, artillery, fighter jets and ballistic missiles “would result in a significant number of casualties”.
“That would be awful,” Milley said. “That would be awful.”