In a press briefing on Tuesday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration is preparing for "all contingencies" regarding Russia, as tensions between the country and Ukraine grow.
"As we pursue diplomatic channels, we will also prepare for all contingencies just as we have been doing for weeks now," said Sullivan.
"President Biden was direct and straightforward with President Putin, as he always is. He reiterated America's support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity. He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures," said Sullivan, in regards to talks the two world leaders had earlier in the day over a video call.
"We would provide additional defensive material to the Ukrainians above and beyond that, which we are already providing, and we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation," Sullivan continued.
Sullivan was questioned on whether Biden received any clarity from the Russian president in regards to invading Ukraine, to which Sullivan said, "We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision."
"What President Biden did today was lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move. He also laid out an alternative path, an alternative path that is fundamentally in keeping with the basic principles and propositions that have guided America in the Euro Atlantic area for the past 70 years. And ultimately, we will see in the days ahead through actions not through words what course of action Russia chooses to take," Sullivan continued.
"Republicans are accusing President Biden of being too weak on President Putin. They cite the fact that sanctions were eased on Nord Stream 2, and the withdraw from Afghanistan, which was widely criticized. How do you respond to that criticism that President Biden is being too weak with Mr. Putin?" a reporter asked.
Sullivan responded by stating "Vladimir Putin, standing behind then-President Medvedev in 2008 invaded Georgia when we had 150,000 or more troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. So the connection between our deployments in foreign wars and the calculus of Russian leaders when it comes to the post-Soviet space, there's not good evidence to support that."
"When it comes to Nord Stream 2, the fact is that gas is not currently flowing through the Nord Stream two pipeline, which means that it's not operating, which means that it's not leveraged for Putin indeed, it is leverage for the West, because if Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine," said Sullivan.
"The President has shown over the course of the past eight months, that he will do what he says he's going to do in response to Russian actions so President Putin can count on that. He said he would impose costs for Navalny. He said he would impose costs for SolarWinds. He did those things and if Russia chooses to take these actions in Ukraine, he will do the same," Sullivan continued.
"He's not doing this to saber rattle. He's not doing it to make idle threats. He's doing it to be clear and direct with both the Russians and with our European allies about the best way forward and we think this stands the best chance alongside a pathway to de escalate to avert a potential crisis with respect to an invasion of Ukraine," Sullivan added.
During Tuesday's call between the two presidents, Biden reportedly cited "Depp concerns" regarding the formation of Russian troops at the Ukraine border, according to BBC News. Russia has reportedly moved thousands of troops to the border, but has stated that it has no intention of attacking Ukraine.
A White House statement following the closed meeting stated that the president voted these concerns to Putin, making his stance clear that actions would be taken if Russia choses to invade Ukraine.
"President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European Allies about Russia's escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the US and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation. President Biden reiterated his support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy," said the White House.
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