As Tensions Build At Ukraine Border, Biden Says “This Is All Putin”
President Joe Biden said Tuesday the situation at the Ukraine border, where Russian troops have amassed is very serious and tensions are high over whether or when they might invade.
Earlier, the White House said a Russian invasion was “imminent,” and placed American troops on high alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe. US and European sanctions have been laid out and prepared in the event of an invasion.
Even as tensions mount, Biden conceded that only one man’s decision-making will determine how events unfold.
“This is all Putin. I don’t even think his people know for certain what he will do,” Biden said.
Biden said he may send troops to Eastern Europe soon to demonstrate American commitment to its NATO allies: “I may be moving some of those troops in the near term just because it takes time. And again, it’s not provocative,” he said.
Still, Biden made clear Putin is something of an enigma, whose intentions are puzzling to him and other western leaders.
“I’ll be completely honest with you, it is a little bit like reading tea leaves,” Biden said.
“Ordinarily, if it were a different leader, the fact that he continues to build forces along Ukraine’s border, from Belarus all the way around, you’d say, ‘Well, that means that he is looking like he is going to do something,'” Biden went on. “But then you look at what his past behavior is and what everyone is saying and his team as well as everyone else as to what is likely to happen, it all comes down to his decision.”
Over the past several days Biden has received updates on the matter, and on Monday he ordered 8,500 US troops to stand ready to deploy to Eastern Europe. He reiterated Tuesday that no American forces would move into Ukraine.
Even as military preparations are underway, diplomatic efforts continue. Russian and European officials planned to meet in Paris this week to continue discussions on reviving a ceasefire agreement in Eastern Ukraine.
Last week, Biden predicted Putin would ultimately decide to invade Ukraine, Tuesday he said that little had changed his prediction.
“There’s been no change in the posture of the Russian forces,” he said.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki described a Russian invasion of Ukraine as “imminent,” though in Kyiv, Ukrainian leaders have sought to downplay the threat.
“When we said it was imminent, it remains imminent,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during a daily briefing. “But again, we can’t make a prediction of what decision President Putin will make. We’re still engaged in diplomatic discussions and negotiations.”