Biden is set to have a video call with Putin on Tuesday. Here's what's at stake
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Biden's going to have a very important meeting tomorrow. It's a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the buildup of military troops on the border with Ukraine. Biden plans to lay out what he'll do if Russia invades. It's a critical moment that calls to mind 2014, when Russia annexed part of its neighbor. Here with more is NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.
SHAPIRO: What does Biden plan to tell Putin?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, President Biden is planning to explain in detail what the U.S. and its allies will do if Russia invades. You know, there are three main things that a senior administration official told us today. Top of that list is coordinated economic sanctions with allies. That's basically economic punishment for any action. The U.S. is also looking at security assistance for Ukraine, and Biden's ready to support NATO allies who are in the alliance's eastern flank. That actually could be extra deployment of U.S. troops in those countries. You know, he's talking to key European allies today in advance of the call to go over some of these specifics. And they're all making it clear that this is all going to be done in unison.
SHAPIRO: You say he could send U.S. troops to NATO-allied countries. Ukraine is not a NATO member. Would he send American troops there?
ORDOÑEZ: You know, that seems unlikely. The official who talked to us made it clear that that was not near the top of the list of options. You know, they're really trying to ward off escalations of tensions. And back in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, and there were also incursions into the eastern Donbas region. Here's, actually, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki talking about that.
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JEN PSAKI: Many of us lived through a similar playbook back in 2014. And the president is not going to hold back in conveying his concern and also conveying our conversations and our preparations should they be warranted. We don't know that President Putin has made a decision. We don't know that yet. But that's why this is an opportunity to have a conversation.
ORDOÑEZ: You know, the White House favors economic measures to try to prevent this from happening again. But a challenge is to design sanctions so that they don't also hurt allies or the U.S. by affecting prices or supplies of energy. Biden will try to convince Putin to talk through some of these issues he has with Ukraine with other European countries. And he's going to push for a diplomatic resolution.
SHAPIRO: There was a U.S. intelligence document that came out on Friday that raised a lot of alarms about potential war. Does the White House actually believe that Russia is likely to invade Ukraine here?
ORDOÑEZ: You know, the White House says they don't know whether Putin has made a final decision about this, but Moscow has taken a bunch of actions that lead the U.S. to believe it's ready to go if a decision is made. You know, you have the troops all around the border. And there's also the same kind of anti-Ukraine propaganda campaign that was used in 2014. I spoke about some of the stakes of the call with Samuel Charap. He was an adviser on Russia and arms control issues in the Obama administration. And he told me this call is likely the best and last chance to avert a military invasion.
SAMUEL CHARAP: Big picture, all of the signs are moving in the wrong direction right now - that is, towards escalation, conflict and potentially war. And this is potentially one of the last opportunities for the Biden administration to change the dynamic.
SHAPIRO: You've talked about what Biden needs to do in this call. What does Putin need to do?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, Putin doesn't want Ukraine to let in - you know, he doesn't want Ukraine to be let into Naito. He's called for written guarantees that NATO will not be expanded. And that's something that the administration says is not going to happen. You know, Russia has really raised the stakes, and that has experts like Sam Charap nervous because they see this talk from Putin as either an ongoing negotiating tactic or actually a pretext to war because of the United States and allies have made clear that they will not adhere to any red lines like that.
SHAPIRO: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, thank you.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.