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President Biden on Tuesday appealed to Russia to pursue the path of diplomacy and laid down a stark warning to Moscow not to threaten the U.S. and its allies. He also told Americans a war in Ukraine could have economic consequences at home in the U.S. But Russia's military has now amassed 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, and is able to invade at any moment. Nick Schifrin reports.
President Biden has put the nation on notice: A war in Ukraine, even without direct U.S. involvement, could be expensive for American consumers.
This afternoon, the president again appealed to Russia's leadership to pursue the path of diplomacy, and he laid down a stark warning to Moscow not to threaten the U.S. and its allies.
He also said that Russia's military has amassed 150,000 troops on Ukraine's border, able to invade at any moment. Nick Schifrin begins over coverage.
Today, President Biden laid down a warning to Russia, and a rallying cry to America.
President Joe Biden:
Let there be no doubt: If Russia commits this breach by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond. We do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we will certainly pay a steeper price tomorrow.
Biden spoke just a few hours after Russian soldiers loaded tanks onto flatbeds for what the Russian military called relocation away from Ukraine's border.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ministry of Defense (through translator): Units of the western and southern military districts that have completed their missions will start moving back to their garrisons today.
But military analysts say these tanks were already away from the front, and it's not clear where they're going. They represent only a tiny number the Russian troops deployed all around Ukraine's southern, eastern, and northern borders.
President Biden said today those troops could still invade.
We have not yet verified that Russian military units are returning to their home bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position. And the fact remains, right now, Russia has more than 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine in Belarus and along Ukraine's border.
And for the first time, President Biden warned that any war in Ukraine could increase gas and oil prices in the U.S.
To be clear, if Russia decides to invade, that would also have consequences here at home. But the American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin also suggested today, while the U.S. and NATO hadn't met Russian demands, diplomacy remained alive.
Vladimir Putin, Russian President (through translator):
There are some points we are not only ready to discuss. In fact, it was we who suggested our partners discuss them, regarding European security, certain weapons systems, missiles, military transparency.
President Biden brought up the same issues and urged Putin to follow the diplomatic path.
The United States has put on the table concrete ideas to establish a security environment in Europe. We're proposing new arms control measures, new transparency measures, new strategic stability measures.
We will not sacrifice basic principles, though. Nations have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. They have the freedom to set their own course and choose with whom they will associate.
That is a reference to Ukraine's NATO ambitions. NATO has reinforced its eastern flank with U.S. and European soldiers, an attempt to deter any war in Ukraine from expanding into NATO.
And make no mistake: The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power.
We are not seeking direct confrontation with Russia, though I have been clear that, if Russia targets Americans in Ukraine, we will respond forcefully.
And if Russia attacks the United States or our Allies through asymmetric means, like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond.
But Ukraine has long feared Russian cyberattacks.
And, today, the Web sites of Ukraine's two largest state banks and the Foreign and Defense ministries were hacked. And, in Moscow, Russian lawmakers gave Putin more leverage. The lower chamber voted to recognize the independence of two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine in the Donbass, Donetsk and Luhansk,Donetsk and Luhansk, here Russian-backed separatists have fought the Ukrainian military since 2014.
Victor Volodatsky, Russian State Duma Member (through translator):
Today, we don't trust the Kyiv regime. Ukraine is now led by fascists and supporters of Anglo-Saxon countries. By making this proposal, we do only one thing. We offer protection to the people.
U.S. officials fear that claim of protection could be used for offensive military action.
Today, Putin was noncommittal. But, standing next to the German chancellor, he used specific language to say Russian allies were already being killed.
In our assessment, what is happening now in the Donbass constitutes genocide.
As for the assessment of whether war is any less likely today, U.S. officials call the Russian messages mixed.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
Ali Rogin is a correspondent for PBS News Weekend and a foreign affairs producer at the PBS NewsHour.
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