Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Central Intelligence Agency Director Joe Burns, flew to Europe to coordinate with allies and bolster their will to counter Russian aggression.
Eyes and Ears
In the past weeks, NATO has increased its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights over and near Ukraine to better understand Russian troop movement and thus shed some light on Moscow’s intentions.
For example, on Wednesday alone, ten surveillance aircraft from five countries were in the air tracking Russian ground, air, and naval forces. The U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force deployed a P-8A Poseidon, RC-12Xs Guardrail, RC-135W Rivet Joint, and E-8C Joint Stars; the U.K. sent a P-8A Poseidon and RC-135W Rivet Joint; Sweden sent a SAAB S100D and S102B; Germany deployed a P-3C Orion; and Norway sent a Dassault Falcon 20ECM.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that “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. 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. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”
Sanctions Like Never Before
President Joe Biden also warned his Russian counterpart about the high cost of an invasion in Ukraine. Speaking about what would that cost look like, Biden said that President Vladimir Putin “has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves,” adding that the notion that NATO won’t be united in the event of an invasion—something that the Kremlin has been counting on—is false.
“If they [Russia] 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, and that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy,” Biden said.
Biden also said that the U.S. would continue to monitor the situation on the ground and make any “decision for force protection purposes” accordingly. He did stress, however, that no additional U.S. troops will be rotating in Ukraine at this time other than the training and advising contingent from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Florida National Guard that is in country.
However, Biden did leave some question marks after his press brief because he suggested that Moscow might get away with a small incursion inside Ukraine.
“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” he said.
Whether that was an unintentional slip or a nod to his Russia counterpart remains to be seen.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.