President Joe Biden’s administration has plans to encourage the Ukrainian government to placate Russian President Vladimir Putin by ceding territory.
Biden held a virtual meeting Tuesday with Putin, where Biden threatened an “economic” response should Russia invade Ukraine. Russian troops have been growing on Ukraine’s border for weeks, a nation that has long sought to join NATO but is unlikely to gain membership within the next decade, officials said.
U.S. officials reportedly plan to urge Ukraine to grant autonomy to eastern regions that are still controlled by separatists who participated in the 2014 Russia-backed revolt against the Ukrainian government. The eastern Donbas region has held an obscure “special status” since the 2014 uprising, a status Ukrainian parliament voted to extend for another year on Dec. 3.
Biden has previously confirmed that deploying U.S. troops to help Ukraine stave off an invasion is not on the table at this time, choosing to focus instead on economic sanctions.
“We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5, it’s a sacred obligation,” Biden said. “That obligation does not extend to NATO – I mean to Ukraine. But it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well. But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now. What will happen is there will be severe consequences.”
The president’s critics say the position he’s taken on Ukraine looks like a message of weakness to the world, and particularly to China. Reporters also pressed the White House on the message Biden’s Ukraine response may send to China at Tuesday’s press briefing. China has long mirrored Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine with its own threats to retake Taiwan by force.
“Some observers have described a nightmare scenario where President Putin invades Ukraine and also simultaneously President Xi uses force to reunify Taiwan with China. Is the U.S. prepared to deal with such a scenario?” a reporter asked.
“The United States is going to take every action that we can take, from the point of view of both deterrence and diplomacy, to make sure that the Taiwan scenario you just described never happens, and to try to avert the invasion into Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “That is the object of our policy right now. Those are the steps we’re taking.”
Russian troops continue to amass along the Ukrainian border, and U.S. intelligence officials believe that Moscow is preparing for a full-scale offensive against Ukraine within the next few weeks.