President Biden is scheduled to hold a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin at 10 a.m. ET. He’s expected to tell Putin exactly how the U.S. will respond if Russia invades Ukraine.
It’s a pressing issue, as U.S. intelligence officials have seen tens of thousands of Russian troops gathering within striking distance of Ukraine’s border over the last few weeks. Russia insists these are its own troops on its own territory, and that it has no aggressive intentions. And while the Biden administration doesn’t know just what Putin is planning, it sees Russia’s military buildup as a threat.
Biden will warn that the cost of any Russian invasion will be high, reinforcing the message that Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave to his counterpart when they met recently. That response would include high-impact economic sanctions coordinated with allies and a stepped-up presence to support NATO allies in the eastern flank.
Biden’s team has also said the president prefers a diplomatic path, and is hoping to rejuvenate the Minsk agreements — a stalled peace accord between Ukraine and Russia that has in the past quelled fighting in East Ukraine, however imperfectly.
The White House announced Monday that Biden had participated in a call with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., during which they discussed their shared concern about Russia’s military build-up and “increasingly harsh rhetoric.”
The leaders reportedly called on Russia to de-escalate tensions, underscored their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and agreed that diplomacy is key to resolving the conflict in East Ukraine.
Maynes says that Putin is worried about the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, and wants a guarantee from the U.S. and its allies that that won’t happen. He says this is Putin “trying to renegotiate NATO’s march eastward after the fall of the Soviet Union,” which he has long seen as fundamentally unfair and dangerous to Russia’s national security.
Importantly, Maynes notes, nobody at NATO is talking about Ukraine joining the alliance in the foreseeable future.