"It is going to be a disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine" - US president Joe Biden says as Russian forces do joint military drills with Belarus
US President, Joe Biden has predicted Russia "will move in" to Ukraine, citing existential concerns by the country's president, Vladimir Putin, but says Russia will regret and face consequences if they invade their neighbor.
This comes as Ukraine and Russian officials have been meeting with Biden's top diplomat as Russian troops amass on the country's border
Russia has also deployed thousands of troops to Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine too.
Biden vowed serious economic consequences on Russia should Putin send his troops over the frontier, including restricting its financial transitions in US dollars, he suggested Western nations were not in agreement on what to do should Russia carry out a much smaller violation of Ukraine's territory.
"It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do," Biden told reporters at an East Room news conference on Wednesday, January 19.
"But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine."
Later, asked to clarify what he meant by "minor incursion," Biden said he drew the line at "Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters"
"I think that changes everything," Biden said.
"But it depends on what he does, to what extent we'll get total unity on the NATO front."
"It's very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. That's what I'm spending a lot of time doing, and there are differences," he went on.
"There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens."
The White House tried to explain Biden's remarks by pointing out a Russian attack in cyberspace or through paramilitary forces would prompt a reciprocal response compared to a scenario where Russian troops move from their positions into Ukraine.
"President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies," press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.
"President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics," Psaki went on.
"And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response."
Biden also said Wednesday he believed the Russian leader Vladimir Putin would soon invade Ukraine.
"I'm not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something," Biden said, describing a leader searching for relevance in a post-Soviet world.
"He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the west."
Biden's prediction of an invasion was the firmest acknowledgment to date the United States fully expects Putin to attack Ukraine after amassing 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border.
Biden said he believed his Russian counterpart had a good understanding of the economic sanctions he was preparing to enact if Ukraine is attacked.
"He's never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves, number one," he said, adding the level of punishment would depend on what Russia's invasion looks like.
That includes limiting Russian transactions in US financial institutions -- "anything that involves dollar denominations," Biden said.
"The cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for the Russians -- they'll be able to prevail over time but it's going to be heavy," he said.
"It's going to be real. It's going to be consequential. Putin has a stark choice. Either de-escalation or diplomacy. Confrontation and consequences."
"This is not all just a cake walk for Russia," he went on. "Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority. And as it relates to Ukraine, they'll pay a stiff price immediately, near term, medium term and long term if they do it."
"Do I think he'll test the west? Test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he'll pay a serious and dear price for it."