President Joe Biden on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of unilaterally sending U.S. combat troops to Ukraine if Russia invades the country — at least for now.
“That’s not on the table,” Biden told reporters as he departed the White House en route to Kansas City, Mo. “We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5. It’s a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend … to Ukraine.
“It would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do, as well,” Biden continued. “But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now. What will happen is there will be severe consequences.”
Biden’s remarks come after his call on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which the American president warned of “strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation” on the Russia-Ukraine border, according to a White House readout of the two-hour conversation.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan elaborated later Tuesday that — in addition to financial sanctions leveled in coordination with European allies — the U.S. would “provide additional defensive material” to Ukraine and “fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities” if Russia invades.
Biden’s refusal to consider unilateral combat troop deployments to Ukraine represents the firmest public statement yet by an administration official regarding the U.S. military response to an invasion of the Eastern European country.
Asked about that possibility on Monday, a senior administration official told reporters the United States “is not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force, as opposed to a combination of support for the Ukrainian military, strong economic countermeasures and the substantial increase in support and capability to our NATO allies.”
Sullivan offered a similarly vague answer on Tuesday after the Biden-Putin call. In the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, America’s Baltic allies on the eastern front — including Romania, Poland and other countries — “will be increasingly concerned about the security and territorial integrity of their countries,” he said.
“They will be seeking, we expect, additional capabilities and potentially additional deployments,” Sullivan continued, “and the United States will be looking to respond positively to those things in the event that there is a further incursion into Ukraine.”
The United States has, however, sent National Guard troops to Ukraine for training missions since 2015, the Defense Department confirmed on Tuesday. The Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed to the country “about a week ago,” according to a Pentagon statement.