U.S. President Joe Biden continues to anticipate a large-scale attack by Russia on the neighboring country following the latest escalation in the Ukraine crisis. "We continue to believe that Russia is prepared to go significantly further and launch a massive military strike against Ukraine," Biden said Tuesday at the White House in Washington.
He called Moscow's recognition of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republics and the planned deployment of Russian troops to eastern Ukrainian territories "the beginning of an invasion" of Ukraine. Russia's President Vladimir Putin, he said, was providing "a justification for taking more territories by force."
Biden announced new sanctions against Russia because of the recent escalation by Moscow. According to the statement, the punitive measures will target two major banks, trade in Russian government bonds and supporters of Putin and their families. Biden stressed that the U.S. is prepared to take even tougher steps if Russia continues its actions against Ukraine.
The sanctions, which are to prohibit U.S. banks from trading in Russian government bonds in the future, would cut off Moscow's access to Western capital markets, Biden stressed. The U.S. government had already banned U.S. financial institutions from trading government bonds in the primary market last year, but not in the important secondary market.
The European Union also launched a ban on trading in Russian government bonds on Tuesday. In addition, several hundred individuals and companies are to be added to the EU sanctions list. Britain imposed sanctions on five Russian banks and three Russian oligarchs. The German government, in turn, put the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline on hold for the time being.
Putin had recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine on Monday evening. The Kremlin leader also ordered a deployment of Russian soldiers to eastern Ukraine. The upper house of parliament approved a troop deployment to eastern Ukraine. This is the second time Putin has planned to invade Ukraine since 2014.
The West accuses him of violating international law by doing so. Russia has massed some 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, according to Western sources.
Biden announced more military aid and troop redeployments. "The United States will continue to provide defense assistance to Ukraine in the interim, and we will continue to strengthen our NATO allies," he said. He said he had authorized additional transfers of U.S. forces and equipment already in Europe.
Despite the escalation, Biden remained open to a diplomatic solution. "When all is said and done, we will judge Russia by its actions, not its words," he stressed. "The United States and our allies and partners remain open to diplomacy. If it is serious." At the same time, Biden emphasized the West's cohesion in the conflict, saying, "We are united in our support for Ukraine. We are united in our opposition to Russian aggression, and we are united in our determination to defend our NATO alliance." Biden did not comment on whether he would remain willing to meet Putin face-to-face. He had agreed to such a possible meeting over the weekend on the condition that Russia not invade Ukraine beforehand.