Biden Says Sending Troops to Ukraine ‘Not on the Table’

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
December 8, 2021 Updated: December 8, 2021

President Joe Biden confirmed Wednesday that sending troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion is “not on the table.”

The president took questions Dec. 8 before departing for Kansas City, Missouri.

When asked about placing troops 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 5, it’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to Ukraine.

“But it would depend upon what 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.”

This comes a day after Biden took part in a two-hour bilateral video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the call Biden told Putin the United States and its allies would respond “with strong economic and other measures” in the event of Russian military escalation against Ukraine.

White House Officials have said “other measures” could also include additional defensive material to the Ukrainians and the fortification of NATO allies on Russia’s eastern flank with additional capabilities if Russia decides to invade.

“In meeting with Putin I was very straightforward, there were no [inaudible] words, we were polite but I made it very clear, if in fact he invaded Ukraine there will be severe consequences, severe consequences,” Biden told reporters Wednesday. “Economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen in terms of being imposed.”

“I have absolute confidence [Putin] got the message,” Biden added later.

Ukrainian officials have estimated more than 90,000 Russian troops are near its border and in Russian-occupied Crimea.

U.S. officials have said the military buildup, along with a spike in anti-Ukrainian activity on social media, harkens back to a “similar playbook” used by Putin in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea.

The Kremlin, in a post-call readout, said, “Putin emphasized that it’s wrong to put the responsibility on Russia, since it is NATO that has been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders.”

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a gaggle aboard Air Force One Wednesday that Biden told Putin during the call “one nation can’t force another nation to change its border, one nation cannot tell another to change its politics and nations can’t tell others who they can work with.”

Following Tuesday’s call, Biden debriefed European allies, including France’s President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

Meanwhile, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov dismissed the sanctions threat during a conference call with reporters.

“While the U.S. president talked about possible sanctions, our president emphasized what Russia needs,” Ushakov said. “Sanctions aren’t something new, they have been in place for a long time and will not have any effect.”

The two presidents tasked their respective teams to follow up after the video call, according to a White House read out of the call.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.