President Joe Biden wrapped up the infrastructure speech he delivered Thursday at a shipyard in Lorain Ohio, by saying he had to return to Washington, D.C. to handle a “little thing going on in Europe.”
Biden was alluding to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, which he has said he still believes, is likely to happen within days. While reports last week suggested the U.S. believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had plans for an invasion to begin Wednesday, U.S. officials say a Russian invasion could happen at any time.
“May God protect our troops,” Biden said. “And the reason they tell me I’ve got to head out — I hadn’t planned on going immediately — is because of weather going back to Washington. And there’s a little thing going on in Europe right now.”
Biden underlined the ongoing threat of a Russian invasion prior to his Ohio speech, telling reporters Thursday morning that the threat remains “very high.” Reporters pressed the president on whether he personally believes Putin will choose to invade.
“Yes, I do,” Biden responded. “Not — my sense is this will happen in the next several days.”
State Department officials have echoed Biden’s statement, saying that reports of a Wednesday invasion did not come from an official U.S. announcement.
“If something doesn’t come to pass, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what we’ve been warning of is wrong,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. “In the best-case scenario, the Russians will have changed their calculus.”
“What I can say is that the Russians over several weeks and in recent days have put in place the assets, the troops, the material that they would need to undertake an attack against Ukraine at any moment,” Price continued. “We’ve been in that window for some time now, we will be in that window for some time until and unless we see de-escalation.”
Russia released footage that appears to show tanks and other assets withdrawing from the Ukrainian border, but the U.S. said there has not been evidence of any pullback and that Russia still has roughly 150,000 troops deployed along Ukraine’s borders.