President Joe Biden said Friday that the U.S. now believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has made up his mind on invading Ukraine.
Biden, speaking Friday afternoon from the White House, kept his remarks about ongoing Ukraine-Russia tensions brief. Still, the president made major news, announcing for the first time that he’s “convinced” Putin has decided on an invasion.
“As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision,” Biden said. “We have reason to believe that.”
When pressed for clarity on whether he was saying that he’s now convinced Putin plans to invade Ukraine, Biden said “yes.”
The president’s comments mark a continued increase in rhetoric over the past week from the administration on the possibility of a Russian invasion. Biden told reporters Thursday he believed Russia would invade Ukraine within “several days” and said the threat level is “very high.”
Biden elaborated on these comments Friday, telling the nation that his administration believes Russia plans to target Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. (RELATED: ‘Things Could Go Crazy, Quickly’: Biden Says He ‘Didn’t Have To Tell’ Putin Not To Harm Americans In Ukraine)
“We has reason to believe that Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week – in the coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people,” Biden said. “We’re calling out Russia’s plans loudly and repeatedly, not because we want a conflict, but because we’re doing everything in our power to remove any reason that Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine and prevent them from moving.”
“Make no mistake: if Russia pursues these plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice,” the president continued. “The United States and our allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] territory from any threat to our collective security, as well. We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people.”
The administration was pressed last week regarding a report from PBS NewsHour foreign affairs and defense correspondent Nick Schifrin. The report suggested the U.S. was aware of whether Putin had made up his mind on invading Ukraine or not.
At the time, the White House pushed back on the report, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying the U.S. had not yet come to a conclusion on whether Putin had decided to invade.
Sullivan did warn that an invasion could occur – while simultaneously noting that the administration was “not saying that a [final] decision has been taken.”
While Biden told the nation Friday that he now believes Putin has made a final decision, he reiterated that the option for diplomacy remains on the table.