(Updates with Biden’s remarks)
Washington, Feb 15 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that Russia is maintaining a “threatening” posture against Ukraine and that it “remains distinctly possible” that it will invade the neighboring country, after Moscow announced the alleged withdrawal from frontline positions of some of its military units.
In a televised speech delivered from the White House, Biden said that his administration has not “verified” the alleged withdrawal of Russian units from the border with Ukraine, a supposed redeployment announced earlier on Tuesday by the Kremlin.
He said that US analysts say that some 150,000 Russian military troops remain deployed in threatening positions around Ukraine and in Belarus, which borders on Ukraine to the north.
US and European officials have expressed skepticism regarding Moscow’s troop movements and are continuing to say that the overwhelming majority of the Russian troops deployed along the border are still easily able to invade Ukraine rapidly.
Biden said that he agrees with the Russian government to “give … diplomacy every chance” to resolve the crisis and that there are ways to approach the security concerns both of Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine and of the West.
He said that as long as there is hope for a diplomatic solution that would prevent the use of force and avoid untold human suffering, US authorities would continue trying to achieve one.
However, he emphasized that it is “distinctly possible” that Russia will still invade its neighbor – which used to be part of the now-defunct Soviet Union “If Russia does invade in the days and weeks ahead, the human costs for Ukraine will be immense and the strategic costs to Russia will also be immense,” Biden said, adding that “The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound.”
The US president acknowledged that a Russian attack on Ukraine could have “consequences here at home,” such as a spike in energy prices, but he also made clear that the US and its allies would not accede to the Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine be banned forever from joining NATO.
“Nations have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “They have the freedom to set their own course and choose with whom they will associate.”
“The United States and NATO are not a threat to Russia,” said Biden, adding that “We’re not targeting people of Russia. We do not seek to destabilize Russia. To the citizens of Russia: You are not our enemy.”
Biden said that “We’re not seeking direct confrontation with Russia, though I have been clear that if Russia targets Americans in Ukraine, we will respond forcefully. If Russia attacks the United States or our allies through asymmetric means, like disruptive cyberattacks against our companies or critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond.”
He also said he hoped that Russia would choose “diplomacy” and act in a “responsible” manner that supports “global stability,” but he warned that the US and its allies will respond if Moscow goes ahead and invades Ukraine, something that the Kremlin has consistently claimed it has no intention of doing even as it has amassed some 150,000 troops and war materiel – including tanks and heavy artillery – along the border, a force that US authorities have said could launch a massive attack across the border “any day” and with little warning.