U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on developments in Ukraine and Russia, and announces sanctions against Russia, from the East Room of the White House February 22, 2022 in Washington, DC.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on developments in Ukraine and Russia, and announces sanctions against Russia, from the East Room of the White House February 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Putin Is Preparing to Take More of Ukraine by Force, Biden Says, Announcing New Sanctions

NATO’s Stoltenberg says Russian forces are flowing into Ukraine breakaway regions.

Russia is preparing to take control of more Ukrainian territory than just the breakaway regions troops entered last night, President Joe Biden said Tuesday, as he announced additional sanctions. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now “asserted that these regions are actually extend[ing] deeper than the two regions he recognized, claiming large areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian government,”  Biden said at the White House Tuesday afternoon.  “He is setting up a rationale to take more territory by force.” 

Biden also announced Tuesday that additional U.S. forces would move from their current European locations to new posts on NATO’s eastern flank. These forces include: 

  • Up to eight F-35 joint strike fighters will move from Germany to several operating locations along NATO’s eastern flank.
  • A battalion of 20 AH-64 attack helicopters from Germany to the Baltic region.
  • A task force of 12 AH-64s will move from Greece to Poland.
  • An infantry battalion task force of about 800 troops will move from Italy to the Baltic region. 

Troops that the U.S. has deployed to Poland could help evacuate Americans or allied residents who flee Ukraine, although Biden has said the U.S. will not be sending forces into Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. The U.S. has flown thousands of anti-tank weapons and other supplies into Ukraine and continues to fly surveillance missions over the country to monitor the Russian movements. 

The additional sanctions announced by Biden target Russian bank VEB and other financial institutions. 

“We've cut off Russia’s government from Western finance. It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets,” he said.   

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO’s massive response force is on a high state of alert, but has not been deployed. 

Stoltenberg also said Russian forces had been seen moving into eastern Ukraine within hours of Putin’s announcement Sunday that he would formally recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as independent and send “peacekeeping” troops there. 

“Many units are now forward-deployed in combat formations. They are out of their camps in the field and ready to strike,” Stoltenberg said. “We saw last night that further Russian troops moved into Donbass into parts of Donetsk and Luhansk.”

“What we see now is additional Russian troops and forces moving in,” he said. “This makes the whole situation even more serious. This is a step change.” 

Biden did not say whether the U.S. has also seen further Russian troop movement into the breakaway regions. 

The uncertainty of Putin’s motives and ambitions—whether his forces will stop at occupying the Donbass and Crimean regions, try to take the entire country—remained unclear and was raising concern throughout Europe. 

“People around the world and especially in Europe are now afraid of a full-on war.  What do you think of that? Fear? And how far away are we?” a reporter asked Stoltenberg in Brussels. 

“There is a real risk,” Stoltenberg said, reiterating that that was why the U.S. and other NATO members have pushed troops, aircraft, and weapons forward to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia: to ensure that if Russia expands its offensive throughout Ukraine, there would be “no room for miscalculation” by Putin that he could go farther than that. 

At the Pentagon on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“We've all heard President Putin's speech yesterday where he threatened war and attacking the very notion of [an] independent Ukraine,” Austin said to reporters before the meeting began. meeting. "Russia's latest invasion is threatening the peace and security and prosperity of Ukraine and transatlantic community.”