WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he has hope, both of a diplomatic solution to ease tensions over Ukraine and in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to continue those talks.
Should diplomacy not prevail, Biden warned in remarks at the White House, the consequences could be painful not just for Putin, but for Americans.
“To be clear, if Russia decides to invade, that will also have consequences here at home, but the American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” Biden said.
Biden said it was still “very much a possibility” that Russia could invade Ukraine and warned the American people that they could see a spike in energy prices should Russian President Vladimir Putin carry out an invasion.
Biden said his team has been involved in nonstop diplomacy, and he plans to give diplomacy every chance to succeed. But the US president warned Russia remains in “a threatening position.”
“We should give the diplomacy every chance to succeed, and I believe there are real ways to address our respective security concerns,” Biden said.
Biden warned that the US was prepared to carry out powerful economic sanctions on Russia should it decide to mount an invasion.
“If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead, the human cost for Ukraine will be immense, and the strategic cost for Russia will also be immense,” Biden said. “If Russia attacks Ukraine, it would be met with overwhelming international condemnation. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound.”
Biden said the US is proposing new arms control, transparency measures and stability measures with Russia as part of the diplomatic effort.
“We’re not targeting the people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia,” Biden said. “You are not our enemy. And I do not believe you want a bloody destructive war against Ukraine.”
The White House has been warning in recent days that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen this week. Foreign policy experts have said another Russian invasion of Ukraine could have sweeping short-term and long-term consequences, including economic ramifications that are felt domestically.
Foreign policy analysts have been urging Biden publicly to address the nation more directly in recent days about Ukraine and Russia and prepare the American public for the possible fallout.
“I will not pretend this will be painless. There could be impact on our energy prices,” Biden said. “So we are taking active steps to alleviate the pressure on our own energy markets and offset raising prices.”
White House officials have been discussing for several weeks when the time would be right for Biden to speak at length about the situation.
There were some signs of hope Tuesday that Russia could be showing the first hints of a de-escalation after Moscow announced a decision to “partially withdraw” some troops gathered near Ukraine† US officials remained skeptical about whether the change in posture signaled a true change in course.
“That would be good, but we have not yet verified that,” Biden said. “We have not yet verified the Russian military units are returning to their home bases. Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position.”
A White House official told NBC News the president chose to make the remarks Tuesday to ensure they happened before Russia. There is now a greater degree of urgency, the official said.