Newsman: President Joe Biden held a video call with European allies on Monday as Western nations warned the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high and the United States put thousands of troops on alert to be sent to the region if needed.
The White House said after the call that Biden and European leaders “reiterated their continued concern about the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders” and also discussed “preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO’s eastern flank.”
The statement, though, didn’t explicitly mention the possibility of the U.S. sending more troops to the region.
The Pentagon announced Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had placed around 8,500 U.S.-based troops on “heightened alert” for rapid deployment to assist NATO if needed. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that the decision to deploy troops has not been made.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that the U.S. response to a possible Russian invasion could result in a cyberattack launched against the U.S. by the Russian government or its proxies.
President Biden’s video call was with the leaders of the European Commission, European Council, NATO, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom, according to the White House, which said they planned to “discuss diplomacy, deterrence and defense efforts” as well as what would constitute potential sanctions against Russia. It lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes, the White House said.
“The leaders underscored their shared desire for a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions and reviewed recent engagements with Russia in multiple formats,” the statement from the White House said.
Biden’s official @POTUS Twitter account also tweeted a photo of him in the Situation Room for the meeting, with the caption: “Today, I spoke with European leaders in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. We discussed our joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression, such as preparations to impose severe economic costs on Russia and reinforce security on the eastern flank.”
Earlier, at the end of opening remarks at a meeting on economic competition, Biden said the U.S. and its European allies had “total unanimity” on Ukraine.
“I had a very, very, very good meeting. Total unanimity with all the European leaders,” the president said.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had placed around 8,500 U.S.-based troops on “heightened alert” for rapid deployment to assist NATO if needed.
No decision to deploy them had been made, though, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who noted that the U.S. could also offer troops already stationed in Europe.
Asked if those troops could be sent directly to Ukraine, Kirby indicated there had been no change to when Biden said last month, that sending troops to the country was “not on the table.”
John Kirby said there had been “no decisions” about moving the fewer than 200 U.S. troops who are already in Ukraine out of the country; those service members have been training members of the Ukrainian military.
He said the personnel included “additional brigade combat teams, logistics personnel, medical support, aviation support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as transportation, and maybe even some additional capabilities after that.”
The NATO Response Force is a multinational force of roughly 40,000 troops that can deploy quickly as needed. The force would be deployed at NATO’s request, Kirby said.
President Biden has said he has no intention to send U.S. forces to Ukraine itself, but has signaled he is prepared to impose strict economic sanctions on Russia in the event of an invasion. Following a call Monday with European leaders, Biden said the group had reached “total unanimity” on responding to Russia.
The White House said the leaders discussed “preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia” if it were to invade. They also called for more diplomacy.