President Biden will speak on Monday afternoon with the leaders of NATO, the European Union and America’s Western allies as trepidation grows about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The 3 p.m. call was a late addition to Biden’s public schedule as the president returned from a weekend at Camp David. The president took no questions from reporters as he walked across the South Lawn and into the White House.
According to the White House, the call will include NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Polish President Andrzej Duda and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The administration billed the call in its announcement as a “consultation and coordination” with “our Transatlantic Allies and partners in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders.”
Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Biden is considering sending up to 5,000 US troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe as the US Embassy in Kiev announced the evacuation of some staff members and their families.
In recent months, the US and its European allies say, nearly 100,000 Russian troops have massed near the border with Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded that NATO rule out ever accepting Ukraine as a member. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has lobbied Biden to add his country to the Atlantic alliance, which was formed to counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Biden said in December that he would not deploy US troops to Ukraine to block a Russian invasion.
The president indicated at a White House press conference Wednesday that a “minor incursion” by Russia would result in less-severe penalties and referenced disagreement among NATO countries about what the proper response would be — horrifying Ukrainian officials who said that the remark could give Putin a “green light” to invade.
Zelensky tweeted the following day that “there are no minor incursions,” while one Ukrainian official told CNN, “This remark potentially gives the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure. Putin senses weakness.”
Biden claimed Thursday that Putin “has no misunderstanding” about the “severe” economic sanctions that would follow a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The White House recently alleged Russia may stage a “false flag” attack on its own forces to provide a justification for war and the administration has warned that Russian action could come “at any time.”
When Biden was vice president in 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula and annexed the territory from Ukraine following a disputed referendum. Putin’s government also allegedly supports a pair of pro-Russia breakaway states in eastern Ukraine.