Joe Biden cast some doubt on Russian claims of withdrawal and warned of the serious repercussions of invasion, as Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports
In a stark warning to Russia, US President Joe Biden said an invasion of Ukraine would be a “war of choice” – in contrast with the necessity of World War Two.
The president warned Russia, if it goes ahead with an attack on Ukraine, it will be remembered for the widespread death an destruction that would result from the conflict.
“World War Two was a war of necessity, but if Russia attacks Ukraine it will be a war of choice or a war without cause or reason,” he said, speaking from the White House.
Russia has 150,000 troops around the Ukrainian border, but the Kremlin claimed earlier on Tuesday that some of its forces have withdrawn.
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President Biden said the US has “not yet verified" this claim and said an invasion of Ukraine remains a distinct possibility.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier on Tuesday his country is ready for talks with the United States and NATO on military transparency, missile deployment limits and other security issues.
But Mr Biden continued to express scepticism about Russia’s intentions, warning again that if Ukraine is invaded then the US “will rally the world to oppose its aggression."
"United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia, Ukraine is not threatening Russia. Neither the US nor NATO have missiles in Ukraine," Mr Biden added.
"We do not, do not have plans to put them there, as well. We're not targeting the people of Russia."
He promised that the US would continue to give diplomacy "every chance” to prevent a Russian invasion, but he also insisted the US and its allies would not “sacrifice basic principles” respecting Ukraine sovereignty.
“Two paths are still open," he said. "But let there be no doubt, if Russia commits this breach by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond.
"If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we’ll surely pay a steeper price tomorrow.”
The president also acknowledged the likelihood that sanctions on Russia would have significant blowback on the American economy, including possible price hikes and disruption to the nation’s energy supply.
“The American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” he said. “I will not pretend this will be painless.”
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Russian lawmakers meanwhile called on Putin to recognise rebel-held areas in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the two self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, as independent states.
The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, voted on Tuesday to submit an appeal to Putin to that effect, put forward earlier by Russia's Communist party.
If implemented, this could mean Donbas has a veto in Ukrainian Parliament – for example, on a vote to join NATO – effectively giving Putin a measure of control without invading.
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