In remarks delivered from the White House on Friday, President Biden said he was certain that Russian President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine, thus plunging Europe into war.
“As of this moment, I’m convinced that he’s made the decision” to send Russia’s military forces across Ukraine’s eastern border, Biden said of Putin. “We have reason to believe that.”
The Biden administration had previously predicted an invasion on Feb. 16, but it failed to materialize. A former KGB intelligence agent, Putin is fond of trying to throw his Western adversaries off balance.
“It’s hard to read his mind,” Biden conceded, even as he repeated that U.S. intelligence indicated that the Russian leader had settled on war. Putin is expected to use the contrived pretenses of a “false flag” operation to start the conflict, which is intended to reclaim land Russia believes belongs under its control.
For several months, Russia has been sending military forces to its border with Ukraine, with more than 100,000 troops now surrounding the much smaller nation. In 2014 Russia invaded Ukraine, annexing the Crimean Peninsula and establishing pro-Russian separatist areas in the Donbass region.
Biden did acknowledge, however, that until the shooting begins, “diplomacy is always a possibility.” Efforts by Biden and European leaders thus far, however, have failed to convince Putin to back down.
The prospects of a Europe riven by war recall some of the 20th century’s darkest days. Asked about planned Russian nuclear exercises, however, Biden reassured the public that he doesn’t anticipate any chance of nuclear war. “I don’t think he is remotely contemplating using nuclear weapons,” the president said.