United States President Joe Biden made an impassioned appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back from war with Ukraine on Tuesday, speaking starkly of the “needless death and destruction” Moscow could cause and international outrage Putin would face.
In a nationally televised speech, Biden said the United States estimates that 150,000 Russian troops now encircle Ukraine, a higher number than previous estimates of about 100,000.
He said reports that some forces had withdrawn were welcome, but they were unverified and an invasion remained very much a possibility.
Biden said diplomacy remained a live option to wind down the crisis and urged Russia to engage.
He said if Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States and its allies were prepared to respond with penalties aimed at exacting economic pain and global isolation.
“The United States is prepared no matter what happens,” he said.
Much of Biden’s remarks were aimed squarely at Putin, who has demanded that NATO not accept Ukraine as a member and stop any further eastward expansion.
Biden’s threats of repercussions for Russia have yet to persuade Putin to back down.
“The United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia. Ukraine is not threatening Russia.
“Neither the U.S. nor NATO have missiles in Ukraine. We do not, do not have plans to put them there as well.
“We are not targeting the people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilise Russia,” said Biden.
The American president also appealed directly to Russian citizens.
“To the citizens of Russia: you are not our enemy, and I don’t believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine,” Biden said.
The human and strategic costs would be “immense” for Russia if it attacks, he said.
“The world would not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction,” Biden added.
The president said the United States was “not seeking direct confrontation with Russia” and that American soldiers were not going to fight in Ukraine.
But, he said if Russia were to attack Americans in Ukraine, “we will respond forcefully.”