President Joe Biden said on Friday that a set of planned U.S. initiatives aimed at curbing Russian aggression would make it “very, very difficult” for President Vladimir Putin to take military action against Ukraine. The White House declined to rule anything out to Russian advances along Ukraine’s border, including some form of military action.
When asked on Friday press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The Biden administration is preparing for a range of options. Asked whether this could include a military response by reporters, Psaki declined to answer directly saying, “I’m not going to outline them in more detail from here.”
“We can’t predict from here what President Putin’s calculus is or what the Russians’ calculus is,” Psaki said. “We saw what they did in 2014 and we’ve seen what they’re doing on the border.”
Russian troops have been gathering near the country’s shared borders with neighboring Ukraine, sparking fears in the former Soviet Union member and the West that Moscow is planning an invasion.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden told reporters on Friday.
The Russian leader said while speaking at a Kremlin ceremony on Wednesday that he would seek “specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO moves eastward and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close vicinity to Russian territory,” the AP reported.
Putin said, “We aren’t demanding any special conditions for ourselves and realize that any agreements must take interests of Russia and all Euro-Atlantic countries into account. A calm and stable situation must be ensured for all and is needed for all without exclusion.”
There are signs that the White House and Kremlin are close to arranging a conversation next week between Biden and Putin. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters Friday that the call would take place next week and that a date had been agreed upon but would not be announced until details of the talks were confirmed
According to Psaki the two are to speak soon and that the call would be an opportunity “to discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric about the military buildup.”
Asked whether the United States was prepared to commit to Russia’s request, Psaki said. “Some decisions weren’t up to Washington.”
While Ukraine and the West worry about the Russian troop buildup, Putin has been issuing his own warnings against moves by NATO and its allies. Russia is seeking legally binding security guarantees against NATO expansion and for the military alliance to stay out of Ukraine.
Psaki told reporters, “NATO member countries decide who is a member of NATO, not Russia. And that is how the process has always been and how it will proceed. It’s important to remember where the provocative action is coming from. It’s not the United States and it’s not Ukraine.”