The United States is willing to send troops to NATO allies if Russia invades Ukraine, a senior administration official said ahead of President Joe Biden's highly anticipated video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The U.S. would be prepared to provide that kind of reassurance" to allies who want it in the event of an attack, the official told reporters Monday, pointing to a similar deployment after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
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At the same time, the administration official declined to confirm if Biden would threaten a military response, describing it as unhelpful "saber rattling."
"I don't want to use a public press call to talk about the particular sensitive challenges that President Biden will lay out for President Putin," the official said. "But I would say 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."
But while Biden will emphasize diplomacy as "the responsible way to resolve this crisis," he will "impose meaningful consequences for harmful and destabilizing actions," the official added.
In preparation for the Putin call, Biden's first since a post-Geneva summit conversation in July, the president has spoken with European partners to coordinate a message of "ally unity and strong trans-Atlantic solidarity on the way forward," the administration official said. The U.S. has also shared "substantial and sustained" intelligence regarding an intensified Russian disinformation campaign concerning Ukraine, among other developments.
"To be clear, we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision," the official said. "We do know that he is putting in the capacity" akin to 2014.
"We've seen this Russian playbook before," the official added.
Biden will connect with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week as well so he can debrief him personally, according to the administration official. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reached out to Zelensky before the call.
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Although Russian military buildup and plans related to Ukraine are of "deep concern," other agenda items for the Biden-Putin call include cybersecurity and Iran's nuclear program, according to the administration official.