WASHINGTON (AP), -- President Joe Biden met Monday with Germany's new leader and vowed to block the vital Nord Stream 2 Russia–Germany gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. Russia's Vladimir Putin countered that only the U.S. and its allied countries are talking about invasion.
Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron Macron met in Moscow for over five hours. Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also spoke at the White House to try and defuse the crisis, before armed conflict breaks out. Russia has increased its military might by adding thousands to the Ukraine border.
The White House is becoming more concerned about the prospect of war and Biden has sought to increase support from European allies for economic sanctions against Russia in case it attacks.
Biden stated that if Russia invades Ukraine, it will mean tanks and troops crossing over the border of Ukraine once more. Then there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We will put an end to it."
This would not only be bad for Russia, but it could also create supply problems in Germany. Although construction of the pipeline is complete, it is still not in operation.
Biden stated that "We are together ready, and all NATO is ready," referring to the powerful Western alliance. Ukraine is not a member.
Biden reiterated his certainty that the pipeline will not be moving forward. However, Scholz stressed the importance of keeping some ambiguity regarding sanctions to pressure Russia to deescalate the crisis.
Scholz stated, "It is necessary for Russia to realize that a lot more could occur than they have perhaps calculated with themselves."
Western concerns about a possible offensive have been heightened by the presence of more than 100,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, warned Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time. This would trigger a conflict that would have an "enormous human price."
Nevertheless, NATO allies and Biden have stated that they do not plan to send troops into Russia to aid Ukraine.
During their long meeting, Macron and Putin expressed their dissatisfactions at a dinner featuring the choice of sturgeon oder reindeer.
Putin pointed out that NATO and the U.S. have not complied with Moscow's demands for an alliance that guarantees it will keep Ukraine and other exSoviet countries out, refrain from placing arms in Ukraine, and reverse the withdrawal of alliance forces from Eastern Europe.
Putin stated that he was against any NATO expansion eastward. He said it is a threat to him. "It's NATO that is advancing on us, not us. It's NATO coming at us. So it's absurd to speak about Russia's aggressive behavior.
He laughed at the Western description of NATO as a defense alliance and said sarcastically, "people of Iraq and Libya have learned it from themselves." And he threatened to start a war if Ukraine joined NATO and tried to win back Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014.
Putin stated that "European countries will automatically become involved in a military conflict against Russia." You will be forced into this conflict against your will. There will not be any winners.
Macron described the talks in a "substantial, deep" manner with a particular focus on conditions that could lead to de-escalation.
He said, "We tried building converging elements." "The next days will be crucial, and deep discussions together will become necessary."
Putin indicated his willingness to continue negotiations, and denied that Russia had any plans to invade Ukraine.
Biden said that it would be prudent for Americans to leave Ukraine, except for essential diplomats.
Positively, Putin stated that Macron's suggestions could be used as a basis to a settlement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He also said that they would have a conversation after Macron's visit.
Biden also said that when Biden was asked if Russia had an "offramp", he replied, "Yes."
Scholz stated to German media before meeting Biden that there would be a high price for Ukraine if it was attacked militarily. We are very prepared for this and have been discussing the details for a while." Scholz will travel from Germany to Kyiv and Moscow February 14-15.
Christine Lambrecht, German Defense Minister, stated that her country will add 350 troops to the NATO battlegroup in Lithuania within days. She stated that this would help to strengthen NATO's eastern flank, and send a clear signal to our allies of unity.
Biden has already deployed additional U.S. soldiers to Poland, Romania, and Germany. A few dozen U.S. elite troops and equipment landed Sunday near the border to Ukraine in southeastern Poland. Hundreds more infantry troops from the 82nd Airborne Division are expected to arrive.
Britain claimed that 350 British troops were being sent to Poland by the U.K. to support NATO forces. This was in addition to 100 Royal Engineers already present.
A news conference was held in Washington by U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrrell. They defended the growing dire Western warnings about a possible Russian invasion.
"This isn't alarmism. "These are just the facts," Blinken stated. "We've witnessed over the past few months a massive accumulation of Russian forces at Ukraine's borders," Blinken said.
Borrell observed that 140,000 troops gathered at the border are not going to be able to enjoy tea.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that the alliance is considering a permanent military presence in Southeast Europe as a response to Russia's "massive militarism" in Ukraine.
After talks with Andrzej Duda, the Polish President, Stoltenberg stated that they are looking at longer-term adjustments to the posture and presence in the eastern region of the alliance. "If Russia wants less NATO near its borders, they will get the opposite."
Stoltenberg did not give any details or say that a final decision had been made. However, the move could mirror NATO’s long-term military presence there, which includes approximately 5,000 troops. Similar forces would be based in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Romania.
It would only be to strengthen the defenses of NATO allies in this region. Should Russia invade, the troops would not be allowed to cross into Ukraine.
Biden and Scholz also discussed contingency planning for gas supply to Europe in the event of Russia cutting off supplies. Europe already has liquefied natural gases supplies that are being reduced by Russia's cold winter, which last year saw little renewable energy generation and Russia delivering less gas than usual.
Biden stated that the U.S. and other nations could make up a significant portion of supplies lost if Russia moves to cut off Europe.
Experts in energy say that replacing Russian gas will take time and would require a lot of effort. The construction of export terminals costs billions of dollars and they are currently operating at full capacity in the U.S.
Corbet and Isachenkov were reporting from Moscow. Associated Press reporters Matthew Lee, Colleen Lang, and Zeke Miller in Washington, Lorne Cooper in Brussels, Yuras Karamanau in Kyiv (Ukraine), Geir Moulson, Frank Jordans and Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Jill Lawless, London, contributed to this report.