U.S. President Joe Biden holds virtual talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin amid Western fears that Moscow plans to attack Ukraine, during a secure video call from the Situation Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2021.

The White House via Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday that his administration was not considering sending U.S. troops to Ukraine amid an alarming Russian military buildup on its shared border.

“Unilateral troops in Ukraine not on the table,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “If you invade Ukraine there will be severe consequences. Economic consequences. He knows that,” the president said, referencing what he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in their two-hour call the day before.

Biden said in lieu of a U.S. troop deployment to Ukraine, his administration would work to reinforce American military presence in NATO countries.

In a Kremlin readout of the call between the two leaders, Putin stressed to Biden that NATO is responsible for escalating tensions on Russia’s borders and accused the 30-member alliance of building up militaries in states adjacent to Russia.

Even as the Kremlin has dismissed suggestions that Moscow was preparing for an attack on Ukraine, Putin told Biden on the call that Ukraine’s bid to join NATO must be denied in return for assurances that Russian troops would not strike.

Biden didn’t accept Putin’s “red lines” on Ukraine during their high-stakes video call Tuesday.

Ukraine has sought acceptance into the alliance since 2002, where an attack on one member country is considered an attack on all of them. Russia has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory.

The Kremlin has previously characterized NATO’s eastward expansion as a direct security threat, arguing that Ukraine’s acceptance into the alliance could result in NATO troop movements on Russia’s borders.

Ukraine has warned Washington and European allies for weeks that Russian troops were massing along its eastern border, a development that mimics Moscow’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. The annexation of the Black Sea peninsula sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions on Moscow.

The Biden administration is eager to make it clear to Russia and the world that it is prepared to be tougher this time around, compared to 2014, when Russian forces annexed Crimea.

“The things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now,” national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday on the heels of the call.

When asked specifically what measures the U.S. was prepared to impose, Sullivan declined to elaborate.

Sullivan added that the White House was working closely with European allies, experts from the Treasury Department, the State Department and the National Security Council on a package of economic and political countermeasures.

The State Department said Wednesday that European Council president Charles Michel agreed in a call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the U.S. and European Union should “impose swift and severe costs on Russia if it escalates its aggression in Ukraine.”

“Secretary Blinken and President Michel reaffirmed U.S. and European Union support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity,” according to a readout of the call.

The two also shared concerns about Russia’s growing military presence around Ukraine and emphasized the need for Russia to de-escalate and return to diplomacy.

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