Tensions are high between the U.S. and its North American Treaty Organization (NATO) allies against Russia, as Russian troops continue to occupy the Ukrainian border.
Russia wants the U.S. and their allies to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet nations from joining NATO, refrain from putting any weapons near Russia, as well as roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.
However, they have rejected these demands as “nonstarters,” but have offered to discuss possible limitations on missile deployments, a greater transparency of military drills and other confidence-building measures.
Putin has yet to deliver a formal response to this proposal, but he has already described them as “secondary’’ and has warned that he will not take “no” for an answer. He counters NATO’s open-door policy by arguing that it threatens Russia and violates the principle of the “indivisibility of security” that is often enshrined in international agreements.
According to the White House, in a phone call on Feb. 12, President Joe Biden told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that invading Ukraine would cause “widespread human suffering” and that the West was committed to diplomacy to end the crisis but is “equally prepared for other scenarios.”
Biden also said the U.S. and its allies would respond “decisively and impose swift and severe costs” if the Kremlin attacked its neighbor.
The two presidents spoke a day after Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, warned that U.S. intelligence had shown that a Russian invasion could possibly begin within days or before the Winter Olympics end on Feb. 20.
Russia has denied the intention to invade but has still massed well over 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and has even sent troops to Belarus, encircling Ukraine on three sides. U.S. officials say that Russia’s buildup of firepower has reached the point where they could possibly invade on short notice.
In response, the U.S. and their allies are raising the prospect of unprecedented sanctions in the event of an invasion, including a possible ban on dollar transactions, draconian restrictions on key technology imports like microchips and the shutdown of a newly built Russian gas pipeline to Germany.
The U.S. and its allies have also since delivered plane loads of weapons and munitions to Ukraine and the U.S. has deployed additional troops to Poland, Romania and Germany to protect NATO’s eastern flank.
As of Feb. 12, the U.S. has evacuated almost all of its staff from the embassy in Kyiv, but will maintain a small consular presence in Lviv, a city in Ukraine near the border of Poland, a NATO ally, in order to handle emergencies.
Currently, there is a public warning for all American citizens in Ukraine to leave the country as soon as possible. Sullivan says that Russian President Vladimir Putin could give the order to launch an invasion of Ukraine any day now.
Brendan Williams contributed to this article.