Russia has reportedly amassed a significant number of military troops and equipment near its border with Ukraine in recent weeks, threatening a potential full-scale invasion or at least substantial support for allied separatists that rose up in Ukraine’s eastern provinces in 2014.
Reportedly, in order to avoid a broader military conflict, President Joe Biden has apparently advised Ukraine to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin by potentially ceding territory or granting autonomy to the Russian-backed separatist regions, The Daily Caller reported.
The report of Biden allegedly urging Ukrainian appeasement of Putin coincides with public remarks he made that essentially foreswore the possibility of America taking any sort of military action to oppose Russian aggression against Ukraine, such as a cross-border invasion by Russian forces.
It was the Associated Press that first reported on the supposed concessions President Biden had suggested in a call Thursday with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which came two days after a call Biden held with Putin to discuss, among other things, the unsettling situation on the border shared by the two former Soviet republics.
In a sense, Biden offered up conflicting messages, in that he reportedly assured Zelensky that the U.S. would defend Ukrainian sovereignty and territory and would respond to a prospective Russian invasion with defensive aid, military deployments to nearby NATO allies, and harsh economic sanctions aimed at Russia.
At the same time, however, the Biden administration was reportedly pressing Ukraine to grant greater autonomy to the Russia-aligned regions controlled by separatists who had revolted against the government in Kyiv in 2014. Those eastern regions, such as Donbas, are currently labeled with an ambiguous and vaguely-defined “special status” that was established in a 2015 peace deal but has never been formalized.
In effect, Biden and his administration are searching for a way to cave to Putin’s ambitions and demands without appearing publicly to do so, and it will undoubtedly be a hard sell to get Ukraine to go along with it, to say nothing of other actual NATO allies situated on Russia’s flank who could see themselves facing a similar fate in the future.
“Not on the table”
Meanwhile, in remarks to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, President Biden made it clear that he currently had no intention of deploying U.S. troops to Ukraine to defend against a Russian incursion of Ukrainian territory.
Asked about the message he had delivered in his conversation with Putin, Biden said, “I made it very clear: If, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences — severe consequences — and economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen, in terms of being imposed.”
Biden noted that he also informed Putin — and Putin reportedly understood — that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would likely result in the U.S. troop presence being bolstered in other nearby NATO nations, as well as that America would provide Ukraine with additional “defensive capability.”
However, as for putting U.S. “boots on the ground” in Ukraine, Biden said, “That is not on the table.”
“We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO Allies, if they were to attack under Article Five. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to NATO — I mean, to Ukraine. But it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries are willing to do as well,” the president added. “But the idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia from invading Ukraine is not on — in the cards right now.”