Biden warns of 'severe consequences' for Putin if he invades Ukraine

Joe’s gift to Putin: Biden threatens Russian leader with ‘severe consequences’ and warns he’ll send troops to NATO allies if he invades Ukraine after visiting Capitol Hill GIFT SHOP as his Iran negotiators resign and he faces conflict in four regions

  • Biden visited a local gift shop in Washington, then spoke about Ukraine
  • Trip comes as he faces tensions in four regions, with North Korean missile launch, militia attack on U.S. base in UAE, as U.S. fleet keeps China in check 
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned against world leaders making deals ‘behind Ukraine’s back’ as threats of a Russian invasion escalate
  • ‘If anyone makes a concession on Ukraine behind Ukraine’s back, first, we will not accept that,’ Kuleba told CNN on Tuesday  
  • Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have called for full-chamber briefings as Biden considered deploying up to 50,000 U.S. troops should Russia invade Ukraine
  • Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced Monday that 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on standby for possible deployment to Eastern Europe
  • Biden’s Deputy Special Envoy for Iran resigned after urging a tougher stance on nuclear talks

President Joe Biden said there would be enormous impacts in Europe should Russia invade Ukraine – and said such a move would bring ‘severe consequences’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden made the sweeping statements at a Capitol Hill gift shop, as he began to make good on a pledge to get out into the country more, although in this case just minutes from the White House.

He issued stark pronouncements bout the global stakes after examining gifts for family, speaking to the national media in front of a tote bag featuring a blue whale. 

It would be ‘the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world’ if Putin moved in, Biden said.

‘It would be severe consequences including significant economic consequences,’ Biden warned. 

Whale of problem: It would be ‘the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world’ if Putin moved in, President Biden said of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. He spoke at a D.C. gift store

He also provided his most detailed explanation to make preparations for sending U.S. troops to bolster NATO forces if needed, with 8,500 troops already ordered on ‘heightened alert.’

‘I’d feel obliged to beef up our presence, NATO’s presence, on the eastern front,’ Biden said, with Russia having amassed more than 100,000 of its own troops on its western border and in Belarus.

‘I may be moving some of those troops in the near term just because it takes time,’ Biden said.

That remark came after Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby told CNN he would ‘not rule out the possibility that we could be putting additional forces on heightened alert in the coming days and weeks’ beyond that 8,500 number, while perhaps ‘moving troops around Europe that are already there.’ 

‘I’ve spoken with every one of our NATO allies. We’re all on the same page,’ Biden said. 

He said the potential reinforcements were ‘not provocative.’

President Biden picked out a necklace and a sweatshirt, then spoke of developments in Europe

‘I don’t think even his people know for certain what he is going to do,’ Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin

He said there was not a lot of concern for the security of allies in western Europe. ‘But in Eastern Europe there’s reason for concern. They’re along the Russian border, the Belarus border,’ he said.

He also warned of the potential for ‘spillover effects.’ 

As he has in the past, Biden says he does not know Putin’s intensions. ‘I don’t think even his people know for certain what he is going to do,’ the president said.

Biden’s comments came a day after the breezed through a question on his teleconference with European leaders, shortly before calling Fox News reporter Peter Doocy a ‘stupid son of a b**ch.’ 

His photo-ready trip out of the White House with a press pool in tow came after a new Harvard CAPS/Harris survey poll put his overall approval at just 39 per cent. 

He made his remarks at HoneyMade, a gift store in Washington, D.C. He picked out a sweatshirt and mentioned a grandson in California, a possible reference to Beau Biden, Jr., Hunter’s son.

He also told reporters he picked out a necklace for first lady Jill Biden.

And in the latest indication that he will keep Vice President Kamala Harris on the ticket, Biden picked out a $20 coffee mug with her likeness on it. ‘I’ll get this one, too,’ he said. 

The store is located in Southeast Washington, DC, near a Marine barracks. 

The store website says it ‘began as a local maker and designer of fashion and accessories for women, babies, and children before finally taking the plunge and opening HoneyMade.’ It features a ‘rotating cast of items by our favorite artisans, artists, and designers, including the fun and fashionable gifts that we make ourselves in our studio behind the store.’

According to the White House, ‘

This afternoon, the President is visiting local small business Honey Made, owned by Viboonrattana “Moo” Honey. Honey Made opened its doors in 2021, which highlights the tremendous growth in new small business applications since the start of the Biden-Harris administration.’

His decision to get out of the White House came during a day of tension in Washington. His aides are briefing to staff in the Capitol in Ukraine.  

And Biden’s comments came after Ukraine’s Foreign Minister on Tuesday warned great powers not to make any back door deals with Vladimir Putin as Russia inches closer to invading Ukraine and the U.S. weighs troop deployment.

‘If anyone makes a concession on Ukraine behind Ukraine’s back, first, we will not accept that,’ Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN. ‘We will not be in a position of a country that speaks on the phone, hears the instruction of the big power and follows it. No.’

‘We paid a lot, including 15,000 lives of our citizens, to secure the right to decide our own future, our own destiny, and we will not allow anyone to impose any concessions on us,’ he added. 

Kuleba added that if anyone comes to Kyiv demanding further concessions he will kick them out of the country and ‘personally arrange’ for an escort to the airport. 

Leaders in Ukraine have ‘turned the page’ on Biden’s comment from his press briefing last week suggesting the U.S. would not act if Russia just commits a ‘minor incursion’ against Ukraine, Kuleba insisted. 

The faux pas, which the White House later walked back on, sparked Republican complaints claiming there is no such thing as a ‘minor incursion’ when it comes to a potential Russian invasion.

U.S. officials have privately reaffirmed to Ukrainian officials, said Kuleba, that they are committed to ‘slashing Russia if any type of incursion, invasion, interference takes place.’

Ukrainian leadership is not happy with the way the Biden administration is responding to the threat of Russia invading – specifically as the State Department evacuated embassy staff and their families from Kyiv.

Meanwhile, a top member of the U.S. team negotiating with Iran has left the role after urging a tougher stance on nuclear talks.

A State Department official confirmed that Richard Nephew, known as the architect of sanctions on Tehran, had stepped down as U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that two other negotiators had stepped aside because they wanted a harder negotiating position.

The team’s policy differences reportedly involved the enforcement of existing sanctions and even pulling out of the talks altogether.

Their departures, another blow to President Joe Biden’s foreign policy goals and a State Department grappling with Russian diplomats who appear poised for conflict in Ukraine, come at a critical time in talks that resumed two months ago.

Western diplomats say they hope for a breakthrough in the coming weeks – but critical differences remain between the two sides and Britain on Tuesday warned of a looming impasse.

Meanwhile the Biden administration has been grappling with bipartisan criticism at home that it’s taken too soft a stance against Iran as the Middle Eastern nation builds up its nuclear capabilities at breakneck speed.

A State Department official declined to comment on the specifics of internal policy discussions.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned against world leaders making deals ‘behind Ukraine’s back’ as Russia continues to build-up forces at the border amid rising concerns of an invasion

Russia has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate and concerns rise over a potential Russia invasion of Ukraine

U.S. politicians are pressuring Biden to impose preemptive sanctions on Russia ahead of any potential invasion. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin holds a video meeting with students of leading Russian universities in Moscow on Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Volodymyr Zelensky is confident that there is not an ‘imminent threat’ to Ukraine, according to a source close with the Ukraine president.

The source, speaking with BuzzFeed News on Monday, also took aim at the administration telling American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country and pulling embassy staff.

‘The fact that the U.S. was the first one to announce this is extremely disappointing,’ the source said.

‘Quite frankly these Americans are safer in Kyiv than they are in Los Angeles … or any other crime-ridden city in the U.S.,’ the Zelensky source added in taking aim at the spiking crime rates in U.S. cities.

On Sunday, the United States ordered the families of its diplomats in the Ukrainian capital Kiev to leave the country ‘due to the continued threat’ of a Russian invasion, the State Department said.

The administration also warned American citizens in the country to leave on their own, claiming the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate citizens should Russia invade.

‘Given that the President has said military action by Russia could come at any time, the US government will not be in a position to evacuate US citizens,’ State Department officials said during a press call over the weekend.

‘So U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,’ they added, suggesting people arrange commercial flights.

The source close to Zelensky said the Ukrainian president’s office views Biden’s moves as ‘utterly ridiculous’ and symbolic of ‘U.S. inconsistency.’

‘On the one hand, [Washington tells Ukraine] how we should democratize. ‘We stand with you. It’s your right to determine to join the West. We will stand with you against Russian aggression,’ the source said in mimicking past messages from the U.S. to Ukraine.

‘Then Russia turns up the temperature and they’re the first to leave,’ the source lamented.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko blasted President Biden on Monday for pulling embassy personnel and relatives out of Kyiv.

‘We have taken note of [the State Department]’s decision re departure of family members of [US Embassy in Kiev] staff,’ Nikolenko wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Monday morning.

‘While we respect right (sic) of foreign nations to ensure safety & security of foreign nations to ensure safety & security of their diplomatic missions, we believe such a step to be a premature one & an instance of excessive caution.’

Nikolenko noted that the European Union is not telling its staff to leave.

Biden’s team is preparing contingency plans if Russia cuts off its natural gas or crude oil exports in the event of invasion.

The United States is working with energy producers in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa to ensure Europe has enough supplies in case Russia cuts off availability, a senior administration official noted during a call with reporters Tuesday morning.

American officials are also vowing harsher sanctions from the start should Russia invade its neighbor, taking a much tougher approach than the response to Russian aggression in 2014.

‘The gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there,’ the senior administration official said on the briefing call.

Members of the Biden administration will also hold two classified congressional briefings on Tuesday to update leadership aides and committee staff on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, a new report reveals.

Congress is out of session this week, so members of the House and Senate will have to wait until next week to work on getting their own briefings with the administration.

As Russia continues to build-up its military presence at the border it shares with Ukraine, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for full-chamber briefings.

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced during a briefing on Monday that 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on standby for possible deployment to Eastern European countries as the world watches to see if Russia will invade Ukraine.

Kirby said that while the troops were put on standby, no final decision has been made on deployments. He also said those in the group on heightened alert include intelligence and transportation units.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies are also moving more military equipment into the region including air and naval assets.

A report from the New York Times over the weekend revealed that President Joe Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 troops to Eastern Europe and Baltic nations. This proposed plan, however, does not include sending U.S. forces directly into Ukraine.

Members of Joe Biden’s administration will hold two classified congressional briefings on Tuesday to update leadership aides and committee staff on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded full-chamber briefings

A Biden official told Punchbowl News in its Tuesday morning newsletter that in the six weeks since the crisis unfolded, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman have already spoken with nearly 20 lawmakers and plan to have calls with more this week.

Biden, according to the official, had a conversation December 7 with the ‘Big Four’ party leaders about Ukraine and Russia – the group consists of Pelosi, Schumer and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

A bipartisan group of senators who just returned from Kyiv on January 19 also met with the president.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held six briefings for members of Congress, including leadership and the leaders and ranking members of national security committees.

McConnell told CNN’s Manu Raju on Monday that he’d recently spoken with Sullivan on the escalating Ukraine-Russia conflict.

While there have been nine interagency briefings for the national security committees and eight briefings for leadership, committee and personal office staff, leadership still wants the full chamber to be briefed by the administration on the matter.

Many lawmakers are still pushing for diplomatic options rather than troop deployment and some are calling for preemptive sanctions.

Republicans have blasted President Biden for being all talk and no action when it comes to sanctioning the Kremlin.

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced Monday that 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on standby. He declined to give details on what units would make up the troops for possible deployment to Eastern Europe

Some members are even already calling for Russia to be ejected from the SWIFT banking system, which is the facilitator of worldwide financial transactions.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are both working on legislation to bolster Ukrainian defenses and punish Russia as the potential grows for invasion.

On Monday evening, a bipartisan group of eight senators met to discuss a Democrat-proposed Russia sanctions bill to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. The four Democrats and four Republicans talked about potential revisions to the proposed legislation that may win over 10 more members of the GOP.

The preliminary talks, according to Politico, revolved around Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez’s ‘mother of all sanctions’ legislation. The bill authorizes harsh financial penalties that would kick in only in the case of Russian invading Ukraine.

The U.S. is operating surveillance flights over Ukraine to track the Russian build-up and movement of troops at its borders.  President Joe Biden is also considers keeping select special forces in the Eastern European country in the event of a full-scale invasion.

Since late December, the Air Force has been regularly flying RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic-eavesdropping planes over Ukraine in order to listen in on Russian ground commanders’ communications, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The article notes the Air Force is also operating ground-surveillance flights with E-8 JSTARS to track Russian troop buildup at Ukraine’s border and movements of Kremlin forces.

Biden specifically is interested in using spy planes to find indications on whether Russia is considering or has already deploying nuclear weapons to the border with Ukraine. Russian officials have warned of this potential.

In conjunction with sending more troops – which the Times says Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 – the president is also looking at approving sending more aircraft to the region. 

Poland’s defense ministry notes there are currently around 4,000 U.S. troops stationed in Poland.

There are also currently more than 150 U.S. military advisers in Ukraine who have operated at a training ground near Lviv for years. It includes Special Operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, and National Guard trainers from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

While the U.S. intends to move its military trainers out of Ukraine swiftly should a full-scale Russian invasion occur, it’s also possible some American forces could stay to advise Kyiv officials and provide frontline support, a U.S. official told the Times. 

Considering Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, Republicans have little faith in how the president could handle impending conflict in Europe as he considers troop deployment. Congress will be on heightened alert when it comes to any American involvement just five months after disaster broke out in pulling out of Afghanistan.

NATO and the Biden administration are expected to respond in writing to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s far-reaching demands for a diplomatic option or ‘offramp’ to avoid conflict, according to The New York Times.

Three areas are on the top of Putin’s potential for compromise – assurances that Ukraine won’t enter NATO, the group’s vow not to further expand and a restoration to Russia’s influence in the region before the strategic map of Europe was redrawn in the 1990s.

Biden’s State of the Union address is on March 1, but the president may need to consider a national address on the rising tensions in Eastern Europe before that point, especially if the potential for a troop deployment heightens between now and then.

President Biden met with leaders from the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom in a video call Monday afternoon, which lasted about 90 minutes.

‘I had a very, very, very good meeting,’ Biden told reporters during a meeting with his cabinet on inflation Monday. ‘Total unanimity with all the European leaders. We’ll talk about it later.’

He refused to talk further on the news of the day in the worsening conflict in Europe, complaining the press wouldn’t ‘report on why I’ve called the meeting’ about inflation.

The NATO group discussed ‘their joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO’s eastern flank,’ the White House said in a readout on the virtual call.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the leaders agreed there would be ‘severe costs’ to Russia if Moscow invaded Ukraine.

‘We agree that any further aggression by #Russia against #Ukraine will have severe costs,’ he tweeted.

The Pentagon clarified the U.S. strategy amid reports that the U.S. is considering a massive deployment of up to 50,000 troops.

‘This is really about getting folks ready to go,’ Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said during a press conference Monday, claiming the majority of those troops would be ground forces.

He said they would stand ready in case NATO activates the NATO Response Force (NRF) or in the event of a ‘deteriorating security environment.’

‘There’s not a mission per se, this is about [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] wanting to get ahead of the potential activation and making sure these units have time to prepare,’ Kirby told reporters.

The NATO Response Force is comprised of some 40,000 international troops across land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components.

Kirby said the move was ‘sending a strong message that we’re committed to NATO and we’re committed to ensuring that our allies have the capabilities they need in case they need to defend themselves.’

Russia continues to build-up and move forces near Ukraine as U.S. lawmakers demand preemptive sanctions ahead of potential invasion. Here a screen shot is taken from a Russian Defense Ministry Press Service video showing an armored vehicle driving off a railway platform after arrival in Belarus on Wednesday, January 19, 2022

He stressed the troops are currently on ‘heightened alert’ posture and have no plans to deploy at this time.

The ‘bulk of them’ would be dedicated to the NRF to be activated if called upon by the Western defensive coalition but added that Austin wants the 8,500 troops to be postured for ‘any other contingencies as well.’

A vast majority of those standby troops will be active duty service members, though Kirby did not rule out the possibility of getting reserve forces assembled as well.

Austin ordered the troops to stand ready to deploy at the direction of President Joe Biden.

Kirby said the units that would be flagged for possible deployment to Eastern Europe would be notified and announced in the near future.

‘It’s very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating,’ he added.

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