Crisis in Ukraine: Biden warns that invading Russia “is still very possible” – live | world news
Joe Biden’s speech sounded like a closing argument, one that had been honed for some time and suggested that expectations are still high in the White House for Russia’s military action.
Biden briefly nodded to Moscow’s claims to stand down before sharply contradicting them, raising the US estimate of the number of troops surrounding Ukraine to 150,000 in a “threatening position”.
It was the kind of speech normally delivered on the eve of a capital action, usually a military action, to prepare the expectations of the population. Biden spoke directly to the American people, telling them he wasn’t going to “pretend it’s going to be painless” and that they would smell it at the gas pump. He promised that his administration would do what it could to mitigate this.
The president has also sought to speak over Putin’s head to ordinary Russians, who have heard little from their own media about their unprecedented troop deployments around Ukraine. Biden spoke of their “deep family history and cultural ties” with Ukrainians, and warned that a war would bloody the country’s reputation in the history books. The world, he said, “will not forget that Russia chose unnecessary death and destruction.”
He made it clear that the United States remained open to negotiations on mutual security issues, saying it would continue talks “as long as there was hope” for diplomacy, but he was sticking to the American position that no compromise on the fundamental principle of the right of Ukraine and other states to choose their alliances.
Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had stressed that Ukrainian membership would not happen for the foreseeable future, but Biden did not echo that conciliatory note. The United States has already concluded that such verbal assurances will not be enough for Putin
Biden’s final statement, “If we don’t stand up for freedom. where there is this risk today, we will surely pay a higher price tomorrow” is likely to be met with grim glee in Kyiv, following the evacuation of the US Embassy and the withdrawal of diplomats Americans at the western end of the country. But the United States has maintained the arms supply and is said to have arranged for weapons to continue to flow to a Ukrainian insurgency should that happen.
This administration is well aware that it has been portrayed as weak for the way it left Afghanistan.
But Biden had long since lost faith in the US mission there, despite his wholehearted belief in NATO. He used the word “sacrosanct” to describe America’s obligation to its allies. It was a deliberately resonant language. Biden is clearly aware that this could prove to be a litmus test for his presidency.