The United States will impose “severe economic harm” on Russia and boost its military presence in Eastern Europe should Moscow invade Ukraine, the White House warned on Monday, laying out the high stakes on the eve of talks between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. President will also quickly inform his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky of the details of his discussion with Mr. Putin, taking place by videoconference on Tuesday, as tens of thousands of Russian troops were positioned near the Ukraine border, a senior U.S. official told reporters.
The official said the White House does not know if Mr. Putin has made a decision to launch his military forces against Ukraine — and stopped short of threatening direct intervention of American military force should he do so.
But Mr. Biden will make clear that there “will be genuine and meaningful and enduring costs to choosing to go forward should (Russia) choose to go forward with a military escalation,” the official said, on grounds of anonymity.
The U.S. and European allies are prepared to take “substantial economic countermeasures... that would impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy” if Russia attacks, the official said.
In addition, Mr. Biden will make clear that if Mr. Putin “moved in, there would be an increasing request from eastern flank allies and a positive response from the United States for additional forces and capabilities and exercises,” they said.
Underscoring the close coordination between Washington and Kiev, Mr. Biden will brief Mr. Zelensky after the call, the official said.
Ukraine has estimated that Russia has around 1,00,000 troops near its border. Moscow denies any bellicose intentions and accuses the West of provocation, particularly with military exercises in the Black Sea.