US President Joe Biden on Wednesday predicted Russia “will move in” to Ukraine, as NATO allies reinforce the country’s defenses by sending weapons and personnel.
“My guess is he will move in; he has to do something,” Biden told reporters at an East Room news conference. “Do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO? Yes. As significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will,” he added.
“But I think he’ll pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn’t think now will cost him. And I think he will regret having done it.”
Biden distinguishes between Russia invasion and “incursion” in Ukraine
Pressed on whether sanctions will work to deter Russia from invading, the President offered a distinction between an invasion and an incursion, appearing to infer that a smaller incursion would not prompt massive sanctions.
“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 we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, etc., but if they actually do what they are capable of doing with the forces that are massed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia,” he said.
While Biden vowed withering economic consequences for Russia should Putin send his troops over the frontier, he suggested Western nations were not in sync on what to do should a lesser violation occur.
“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 said. “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.”
US and NATO allies boost Ukraine’s defenses
Biden’s comments come as the U.S. State Department cleared Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send U.S.-made missiles and other weapons to Ukraine.
The third-party transfer agreements will allow Estonia to transfer Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, while Lithuania will be permitted to send Stinger missiles, said one of the sources.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed that the U.S. government had approved third-party transfers allowing Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Britain to provide U.S.-made equipment from their inventories to Ukraine, but gave no details on which weapons would be sent.
NATO ally the United Kingdom has begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons and Canada has reportedly deployed a small contingent of special forces to Kiev.
Speaking in the British parliament on Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK had “taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armor defensive weapon systems”.
Separately in Canada, Global News reported that Ottawa had dispatched special forces operators to Ukraine.