A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman walks in a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near to Avdiivka, Donetsk, southeastern Ukraine, on January 9, 2022.

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman walks in a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near to Avdiivka, Donetsk, southeastern Ukraine, on January 9, 2022. AFP via Getty Images / Anatolii STEPANOV

Biden Promises More Troops In Poland, Romania If Russia Invades Ukraine

The president said he is unwilling to consider troop cuts in potential negotiations with Putin.

The United States will boost its troop presence in eastern NATO members such as Poland and Romania if Russia sends more forces into Ukraine, President Joe Biden said Wednesday.

Biden shot down the idea that his administration would withdraw troops from former Soviet countries in a deal to de-escalate tensions with Russia, which has amassed military hardware and 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border.

“There’s not space for that,” he said at a White House press conference. “We’re going to actually increase troop presence in Poland or Romania, et cetera, if in fact he moves, because we have a sacred obligation with Article 5 to defend those countries because they’re part of NATO.” 

But Biden also said America will not “permanently station” troops in former Soviet states. 

Eastern European allies have been pushing for a greater American troop presence for years to provide greater deterrence against Russia. In 2018, Poland proposed naming a military base after President Donald Trump in exchange for basing troops permanently in the country. And Lithuania is investing millions of Euros in its military facilities to try to make rotational deployments permanent amid heightened fears about Russia. 

Russia has been building up troops and hardware along its border with Ukraine since late last year. This week, Moscow said it was sending more troops to Belarus for a joint exercise, prompting concerns that Russia could attack Kiev from the north.  

Asked if he believes Putin will launch a military surge into Ukraine, Biden said, “My guess is he will move in.” Pressed on whether his administration or intelligence officials believe that an invasion is imminent, Biden said that nothing is certain and that even high-ranking Russian officials don’t know what their boss will do. 

“I suspect it matters which side of the bed [Putin] gets up on in the morning as to exactly what he’s going to do,” he said. “I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet.” 

In Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Moscow is prepared to launch an attack “on very short notice.” 

The American government is also trying to present a bipartisan front at home to condemn any further Russian invasion into Ukraine. A bipartisan group of senators, including four Democrats and three Republicans, traveled to Kyiv over the weekend to demonstrate to Putin that Congress is united in condemnation of his actions despite differences of opinion about the best way to counter them, according to multiple senators who were part of the traveling delegation.

“We certainly have some honest policy disagreements, particularly with regard to the Nord Stream 2 sanctions…that should not be mistaken by Vladimir Putin or Russia as disunity in our resolve to stand with the people of Ukraine and to stand with freedom,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said at a press conference.

Biden met virtually on Wednesday morning with the lawmakers who traveled to Ukraine and “commended the strong history of support for Ukraine from both sides of the aisle,” according to a statement from White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. 

In the meeting, lawmakers “listened as much as we spoke,” Cramer said, while Biden “listened attentively…[and] shared a lot as well.”

Still, some Republican hawks made partisan jabs at Biden’s handling of the situation, and seized it as another opportunity to call the president weak on Russia. 

Moscow’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border “is the result of a year of Joe Biden’s impotence and incompetence towards Russia in particular, and foreign policy more generally,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said at the press conference. 

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, also criticized the president for “appeasing Putin” and not making contingency preparations to evacuate the 10,000 to 15,000 American civilians who live in Ukraine. 

“Putin doesn’t take this president, they don’t take his threats and they certainly don’t take his leadership seriously,” Ernst said. “What I haven’t heard from this administration is what are we doing for Americans that live in Ukraine? Again, have we not learned our lessons from Afghanistan?”