President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the United States would not unilaterally send troops to defend Ukraine if Russia decided to invade.
The president commented on his video call he had on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin as he left the White House for a trip to Kansas City, Missouri.
When reporters asked if he would rule out sending American troops into Ukraine, Biden replied, “Yes.”
“That is not on the table,” he added.
Biden noted that the United States had a moral and legal obligation to defend countries in the NATO alliance and reminded reporters that Ukraine was not a member of NATO.
“The idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now,” Biden continued.
He did say that the United States would back NATO if it decided to act but downplayed the idea of sending in troops to Ukraine.
The president warned Russia that the United States would level “severe consequences” if Russia invaded Ukraine, repeating talking points issued by the White House on Tuesday.
He said he spoke with Putin to send a “clear and direct” message to Russia about what he could expect from the United States if his country invaded Ukraine.
“I was very straightforward, and there were no minced words,” Biden said, adding he was “absolutely confident he got the message.”
Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan said after the meeting that the president promised Putin he would be tougher on Russia than former President Barack Obama was after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
“I will look you in the eye and tell you, as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today, that things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” Sullivan said.