President Joe Biden ended an infrastructure speech Thursday in Ohio by saying he had to return to Washington, D.C. to handle a “little thing going on in Europe.”
Biden was referring to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Biden has said he still believes is likely. While reports last week suggested the U.S. believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had drafted plans for an invasion to begin Wednesday, U.S. officials say the window of a potential Russian attack remains open. Biden delivered his speech at a shipyard in Lorain, Ohio. (RELATED: Biden Approves More Troops For Deployment Amid Russia-Ukraine Tensions)
“May God protect our troops,” Biden said. “And the reason they tell me I’ve got to head out — I hadn’t planned on going immediately — is because of weather going back to Washington. And there’s a little thing going on in Europe right now.”
Biden emphasized the ongoing threat of a Russian invasion prior to his Ohio speech, telling reporters Thursday morning that the threat remains “very high.” Reporters then pressed him on whether he personally believes Putin will choose to invade.
“Yes, I do,” Biden responded. “Not — my sense is this will happen in the next several days.”
State Department officials have echoed Biden’s statement, highlighting that reports of a Wednesday invasion were sourced to unnamed military officials and did not come from an official U.S. announcement.
“If something doesn’t come to pass, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what we’ve been warning of is wrong,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. “In the best-case scenario, the Russians will have changed their calculus.”
“What I can say is that the Russians over several weeks and in recent days, have put in place the assets, the troops, the material that they would need to undertake an attack against Ukraine at any moment,” Price continued. “We’ve been in that window for some time now, we will be in that window for some time until and unless we see de-escalation.”
Russian media has put forward footage appearing to show tanks and other assets withdrawing from the Ukrainian border, but the U.S. says the footage is misleading and that Russia still has roughly 150,000 troops deployed along Ukraine’s borders.