President Joe Biden spoke directly to the American people Tuesday about the crisis on the Ukraine border, but his message was aimed also at a critical audience of one: Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Biden warned would suffer terribly if he does not back off threats to invade its sovereign neighbor.
“If Russia attacks Ukraine, it would be a war of choice, a war without cause or reason,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “The human cost to Ukraine would be immense. The strategic cost to Russia will also be immense. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction.”
Biden said there was still time for Putin to engage in diplomacy to avert disaster for Eastern Europe as well as what the American president acknowledged would be an economic hit on American energy consumers. But the president’s don’t-you-dare tone indicated this was Biden’s last warning to Putin.
The president’s remarks came hours before the day that officials have circled as the date of a potential attack. The Associated Press last week quoted U.S. intelligence analysts who indicated that Russia was targeting Wednesday for a possible invasion.
Should Putin not back off, the United States and its NATO allies are prepared to speedily implement a brutal set of sanctions, including the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
“Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound,” Biden said in his toughest speech yet on Russian aggression.
Russia indicated earlier that it was moving troops away from the Russia-Ukraine border, offering a glimmer of hope that Putin would not invade the former Soviet state. But Biden said he did not have evidence that the assertion was true. In fact, Biden said, U.S. analysts “indicate they remain very much in a threatening position,” with more than 100,000 Russian troops circling Ukraine and bordering Belarus.
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