Reports that President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials planned to advise Ukraine to cede land to appease Russia and prevent an invasion are “absolutely false,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.
Psaki made the statement during Thursday’s White House press briefing, just hours after Biden held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Russian troops have been amassing on the Ukrainian border for weeks, and Biden has threatened Putin with economic sanctions should he choose to invade. U.S. officials reportedly planned to advise Ukraine to grant autonomy to the eastern Donbas region, which has been under control of Russia-backed separatists since 2014, according to The Associated Press.
“There are some reports that the U.S. is pressuring Ukraine to cede land to Russia as a way to deter them from invading. Is that true?” a reporter asked.
“No, that’s absolutely false,” Psaki responded.
Reporters went on to ask Psaki whether Biden’s strategy for avoiding an invasion was working, given Russian troops continue to amass on the Ukrainian border. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Speak Loudly And Carry A Small Stick’: Republicans Blast Biden’s Response To Putin’s Escalation In Ukraine)
“It’s going to be up to President Putin to make a decision about whether he is going to invade Ukraine and send a message to the global community that he does not respect the territorial integrity of a country when the United States and our European partners are sending a clear message that there will be significant economic consequences, severe economic consequences,” Psaki responded.
“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,” Biden said Tuesday. “That obligation does not extend to NATO – I mean to Ukraine. But it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well. 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.”
Some of the president’s critics have argued his stance on Ukraine is projecting a message of weakness to the world, and particularly to China. Reporters pressed the White House on the message Biden’s Ukraine response may send to China at Tuesday’s press briefing. China has long mirrored Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine with its own threats to retake Taiwan by force.
“Some observers have described a nightmare scenario where President Putin invades Ukraine and also simultaneously President Xi uses force to reunify Taiwan with China. Is the U.S. prepared to deal with such a scenario?” a reporter asked national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
“The United States is going to take every action that we can take, from the point of view of both deterrence and diplomacy, to make sure that the Taiwan scenario you just described never happens, and to try to avert the invasion into Ukraine,” Sullivan said. “That is the object of our policy right now. Those are the steps we’re taking.”