President Joe Biden said Friday he is preparing a “set of initiatives” to make it more difficult for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “do what people are worried he may do” – namely, having Russia invade Ukraine.
Following a speech at the White House about the latest jobs report, Biden told reporters that he’s been in “constant contact” with European allies and Ukrainian officials.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do. But that’s in play right now,” he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that if Russia comes into confrontation with Ukraine, the US will respond with “a range of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past.”
And while the US continues to deliberate what kind of military aid to send to Ukraine in the face of the Russian buildup, Blinken also made clear that “should Russia reject diplomacy and reinvade Ukraine, we will be prepared to act.”
When asked for more details about the initiatives, a White House National Security Council spokesperson told CNN, “Since the beginning of this Administration we have demonstrated that the United States and our allies are willing to use a number of tools to address harmful Russian actions, and we will not hesitate from making use of those and other tools in the future.”
Russian forces have capabilities in place along the Ukraine border to carry out a swift and immediate invasion, including erecting supply lines such as medical units and fuel that could sustain a drawn-out conflict, should Moscow choose to invade, two sources familiar with the latest intelligence assessments recently told CNN.
The new details about the Russian buildup underscore US officials’ heightened alarm over the movements. The current levels of equipment stationed in the area could supply front-line forces for seven to 10 days and other support units for as long as a month, according to one source familiar with the matter.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that he believes Russia is positioned to invade “when they want,” adding that “Russia’s capabilities would be equivalent to a modern-day blitzkrieg.”
A senior administration official told CNN that the US has “seen additional Russia troops added to the border region in recent days,” but the source declined to detail how many troops.
Russia has denied in recent days that it has any plans to attack Ukraine but has also demanded security guarantees from the West, such as a pledge that it won’t allow Ukraine to join NATO.
Blinken said Thursday that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed to report the details of their meeting back to Biden and Putin respectively and that the two presidents “may have the opportunity to speak directly in the near future.” And on Friday, the secretary of state confirmed that he expects Biden and Putin to speak in the very near future.
Blinken said that during the call, Biden will express a “strong desire for greater predictability, stability” in the US-Russia relationship and the administration’s intention “to stand up resolutely against any reckless or aggressive actions that Russia may pursue.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also confirmed that the administration is working on a possible call. She said a call would be “an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric about the military buildup that we’re seeing on the border of Ukraine.”
The President, asked later Friday what he’d do to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine, said, “We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time – my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin.”
Asked whether he accepts Putin’s red line in Ukraine, Biden told reporters, “I don’t accept anyone’s red line.”
This story has been updated with additional comments from President Joe Biden.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Natasha Bertrand, Jennifer Hansler, Donald Judd and Michael Conte contributed to this report.