President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday that the United States would take ”strong” steps to punish Russia if it invades Ukraine next year, The Hill reported.
”President Biden made very clear [a] continued U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a senior official told the outlet.
U.S. intelligence has alleged that Russia is planning a multifront offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post on Dec. 3.
Biden provided Zelensky with a readout of his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, in which Biden made it ”crystal clear” that ”if Ukraine is on the agenda, then Ukraine is at the table,” per The Hill.
Biden also spoke on Thursday with leaders of the ”Budapest Nine” — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia — regarding his call with Putin.
”It is going to be up to President Putin to make a decision about whether he is going to invade Ukraine and send a message to the global community that he does not respect the territorial integrity of the country when the United States, our European partners are sending a clear message that there will be significant economic consequences, severe economic consequences beyond … what we have seen in 2014,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier the same day.
Biden said on Wednesday that the U.S. was not considering unilaterally sending forces to defend Ukraine but would consider bolstering the easternmost border of NATO.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014, taking advantage of the chaos surrounding the war in Donbas caused by Russian-speaking separatists, the Brookings Institution wrote.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia was rendered internationally illegal, and Russia was booted out of the international Group of Eight (G-8) soon after, according to CNN.