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Biden Ups Ante On Sanctions, Saying U.S. Could Impose Them Directly On Putin If Russia Invades Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden said he would consider personal sanctions on President Vladimir Putin if Russia invades Ukraine, a rare threat that came as the United States shipped military equipment to Kyiv and Western leaders continued steps aimed at deterring Russia.

Biden told reporters on January 25 that if Russia were to move into Ukraine with the estimated 125,000 or more troops massed near the border, it would be the "largest invasion since World War II" and would "change the world."

Live Briefing: Ukraine In The Crosshairs

Check out RFE/RL's new live briefing on the massive buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine's border and the diplomacy under way to prevent a possible invasion​. Ukraine In The Crosshairs presents the latest developments and analysis, updated throughout the day.

Asked if he would see himself imposing sanctions on Putin directly in response, Biden said, "Yes, I would see that."

Biden consulted with allied European leaders on January 24 over the tensions caused by Russia’s troop buildup, and the Pentagon announced it was putting up to 8,500 U.S. soldiers on "heightened alert" for potential deployment to bolster NATO's presence in the region.

Biden said he has "no intention" of sending U.S. troops into Ukraine but again warned Russia of severe sanctions if Moscow orders an attack.

NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. They are backed by tanks, air defenses, and intelligence and surveillance units.

Additional equipment, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers, and other military hardware arrived in Kyiv on January 25 -- the third installment of a $200 million package to shore up Ukraine's defenses.

"Javelins in Kyiv! A new cargo of security aid -- launchers & missiles -- with a total weight of about 80 tons. We expect the arrival of the 4th from the big flock of birds soon," Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Twitter. "Thanks to our strategic partner."

Russia says the crisis is being driven by NATO and the United States, accusing them of “escalating tensions.” Although Russia denies it is planning an attack, it kicked off military drills near Ukraine on January 25 involving thousands of troops and dozens of warplanes.

The Kremlin has used its menacing troop buildup to issue a list of demands to redraw the security architecture in Europe. Among its demands are a commitment that NATO never admits Ukraine and a significant retreat of the alliance from Eastern Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to deliver remarks on January 26 in the State Duma and answer deputies’ questions.

Meanwhile, NATO and the United States are preparing a document to address Russian concerns over security in Europe, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it would be sent later this week.

The document will make it clear to the Russian side that NATO and Western governments are ready to "sit down and discuss arms control disarmament, transparency on military activities, risk reduction mechanisms, and operations which are relevant for European security,” Stoltenberg said on CNN on January 25.

As part of a continuing diplomatic effort, advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France are due to meet in Paris on January 26, and French President Emmanuel Macron has scheduled a phone call with Putin for January 28 in which he is expected to seek clarification over Russia's intentions.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

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