President Joe Biden vowed the U.S. would make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to take military action in Ukraine.
The commander-in-chief’s comments came amid fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine early next year. New findings from US intelligence estimated 175,000 troops would be involved, according to the Washington Post, which cited an intelligence document and U.S. officials.
Russia has been deploying troops toward the Ukraine border, while escalating demands that Biden guarantee Ukraine is barred from NATO. Russia also wants the NATO alliance to refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory.
The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war and comes ahead of a planned virtual meeting next week between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the newspaper also reported.
When asked about the intelligence finding as he set out for the presidential retreat at Camp David on Friday night, Biden told reporters “we’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time, and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin.”
The president also pledged new initiatives from his administration to deter Russian aggression.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned Friday the invasion could happen as soon as next month, adding Russia has an estimated 94,300 troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea. U.S. intelligence officials believe closer to 70,000 troops are deployed near the border, according to an unclassified intelligence document obtained by The Associated Press.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials have “engaged in the possibility” of a Biden-Putin call.
With Post wire services