delivered 18 February 2022, White House, Washington, D.C.
Audio mp3 of Address Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address
Good afternoon. Today, I made two vital calls, as Iíve been making for some months now -- two vital calls that -- on the situation in Russia and Ukraine.
The first was to a bipartisan group of members of Congress who are currently representing the United States, along with Vice President Harris at the Munich Security Conference.
The second was the latest in a series of calls over the past many months with the heads of state of our NATO Allies and the European Union to bring them up to date on what the United States thinks is the current state of affairs, and whatís likely to happen in Ukraine in the coming days, to ensure that we continue to remain in lockstep -- that is the European Union and NATO.
Despite Russiaís efforts to divide us at home and abroad, I can affirm that has not happened. The overwhelming message of both -- on both calls was one of unity, determination, and resolve. I shared with all of those on the calls what we know about a rapidly escalating crisis in Ukraine.
Over the last few days, weíve seen reports of a major uptick in violations of the ceasefire by Russian-backed fighters attempting to provoke Ukraine in the Donbas. For example, a shelling of a Ukrainian kindergarten yesterday, which Russia has falsely asserted was carried out by Ukraine. We also continue to see more and more disinformation being pushed out by -- to the Russian public, including the Russian-backed separatists, claiming that Ukraine is planning to launch a massive offensive attack in the Donbas.
Well, look, there is simply no evidence of these assertions, and it -- and devies [sic] -- it defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long conflict.
Russia state media also continues to make phony allegations of a genocide taking place in the Donbas and push fabricated claims warning about Ukraineís attack on Russia without any evidence. Thatís just what Iím sure Ukraine is thinking of doing -- attacking Russia.
All these are consistent with the playbook the Russians have used before: to set up a false justification to act against Ukraine. This is also in line with the pretext scenarios that the United States and our Allies and partners have been warning about for weeks.
Throughout these tense moments, the Ukrainian forces have shown great judgment and, I might add, restraint. Theyíve refused to allow the Russians to bait them into war.
But the fact remains: Russian troops currently have Ukraine surrounded -- from Belarus, along the Russian border with Ukraine, to the Black Sea in the south -- and all of its border.
You know, look, we have reason to believe the
Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week
Weíre calling out Russiaís plans loudly and repeatedly, not because we want a conflict, but because weíre doing everything in our power to remove any reason that Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine and prevent them from moving.
Make no mistake: If Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice. The United States and our Allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well.
We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people.
This past year, the United States provided a record amount of security assistance to Ukraine to bolster its defensive -- $650 million, from Javelin missiles to ammunition.
And we also previously provided $500 million in -- in humanitarian aid and economic support for Ukraine. And earlier this week, we also announced an additional sovereign loan guarantee of up to $1 billion to strengthen Ukraineís economic resilience.
But the bottom line is this: The United States and our Allies and partners will support the Ukrainian people. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions. The West is united and resolved. Weíre ready to impose severe sanctions on Russia if it further invades Ukraine.
But I say again: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table.
Last night, Russia agreed that Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov should meet on Feb- -- on February 24th -- February 24th in Europe.
But if Russia takes military action before that
date, it will be clear that they have slammed the door shut on diplomacy. They
will have --
You know, there are many issues that divide our nation and our world, but standing up to Russian aggression is not one of them. The American people are united. Europe is united. The transatlantic community is united. Our political parties in this country are united. The entire free world is united.
Russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will bring or diplomacy that will make a future safer for everyone.
Now Iím happy to take a few questions. Nancy from Bloomberg.
Question: Thank you so much, sir. Do you think that it is wise for President Zelenskyy to leave Ukraine if an invasion is as imminent as the U.S. says it is?
President Biden: Thatís a judgment for him to make and a determination as to whether or not. Iíve spoken with Zelenskyy a dozen times -- maybe more, I donít know. And -- and itís -- and in the pursuit of a diplomatic solution, it may not be -- it may be the wise choice. But itís his decision.
Question: And do you have any indication about whether President Putin has made a decision on whether to invade? Do you feel confident that he -- that he hasnít made that decision already?
President Biden: As of this moment, Iím convinced heís made the decision. We have reason to believe that.
Question: There seems to be a unanimity, a spirit to do -- between the United States and Europe to do some sanctions -- comprehensive sanctions. But are -- is everyone on board with the exact same sanctions that you want to do?
Yes. There will be some slight differences, but none --
Question: And President Putin is going to oversee some nuclear drills this weekend. How do you see that happening? Whatís your reaction to that, sir? Thank you.
President Biden: Well, I donít think he is remotely contemplating nuclear -- using nuclear weapons. But I do think itís -- I think he is focused on trying to convince the world that he has the ability to change the dynamics in Europe in a way that he cannot. But I donít -- how much of it is a cover for just saying, ďWeíre just doing exercisesĒ and thereís more than that, I just canít -- itís hard to read his mind.
Question: To be clear -- to be clear, you are convinced --
President Biden: Iíll -- Iíll take some.
Question: -- you are convinced -- you are convinced that President Putin is going to invade Ukraine? Is that what you just said a few moments ago?
President Biden: Yes, I did. Yes.
Question: So, is diplomacy off the table then?
President Biden: No. Thereís always -- until he does, diplomacy is always a possibility.
Question: What reason do you have to believe he is considering that option at all?
President Biden: We have a significant intelligence capability. Thank you very much.
Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)
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