President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin that the US is prepared to move more troops and military hardware near Russia’s border on NATO’s “eastern flank” if Russia invades Ukraine, an unnamed senior administration official told reporters on Monday.
Biden and Putin will speak on Tuesday amid heightened tensions over Ukraine. The US has been warning that Russia is planning to move into Ukraine based on a troop buildup in the region, but Moscow strongly denies that it is planning an invasion.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that US intelligence has found Russia is planning to invade Ukraine in early 2022. But the administration official who spoke with reporters Monday said the US wasn’t sure if Putin was really planning an invasion.
“We do not know whether President Putin has made a decision about further military escalation in Ukraine. But we do know that he is putting in place the capacity to engage in such escalation should he decide to do so,” the official said.
Russia has been pointing to the increase in US and NATO activity near its borders and in the Black Sea as the source of tensions. If the US moves more troops to the region, Russia would likely respond in kind. Biden is also reportedly considering sanctions on Russia to “deter” Moscow from invading Ukraine.
Notably, the US is only threatening to sanction Russia or move more troops into the region as opposed to intervening militarily to fight the Russians. In earlier statements, Biden and other US officials have been vague about what Washington’s response to a Russian invasion would be, warning “consequences” and committing to Ukraine’s “sovereignty.”