U.S. President Joe Biden in a Tuesday address warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against invading Ukraine, saying it would be a “self-inflicted wound” for Russia as he reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to resolve the crisis through diplomatic channels.
“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 in prepared remarks from the East Room of the White House. “The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction. Invading Ukraine will prove to be a self-inflicted wound.”
Biden urged Russia to choose the diplomatic route, and while he welcomed Russian claims that it had pulled back some forces from Ukraine’s border, the president said those claims had not been verified by U.S. officials. “That would be good, but we have not yet verified that,” he said.
In the speech, which was hastily scheduled on Tuesday to provide an update on the U.S. response to the crisis, Biden reiterated that Russia would face steep penalties in the form of sanctions and export controls if it were to launch a renewed military incursion of Ukraine, which he described as “distinctly possible.”
Biden said that the U.S. was not seeking conflict with Russia, but he promised to respond with force if Russia were to threaten Americans in Ukraine.
While Biden has addressed the Ukraine crisis in exchanges with reporters, the speech was his first prepared address on the situation that has unfolded over several weeks. It signaled a desire by the White House to address the crisis head-on amid fears an invasion could be imminent.
“We should give the diplomacy every chance to succeed,” Biden said, noting that the U.S. is prepared to discuss with Russia and NATO agreements on arms control, transparency and strategic stability.
“As long as there is hope of diplomatic resolution that prevents the use of force and avoids incredible human suffering that would follow, we will pursue it,” he said.
At the same time, Biden made clear that the U.S. and NATO would not bend to Russian demands that Ukraine be barred from NATO membership.