12:53 PM EST
MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us today. Today’s call will be in the background, attributed to a “senior administration official.” And the content will be embargoed until the conclusion of the appeal.
Today’s speaker will be [senior administration official]who will make some comments at the top and then answer some questions.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: Thank you. And thank you all for taking the time.
Thus, the call between the two presidents was professional and substantial. It lasted a little over an hour. There has been no fundamental shift in the dynamic that has been unfolding now for several weeks, but we believe we have put ideas on the table that would be in our interest and that of our allies to pursue, which would strengthen European security, and which also address some of the concerns expressed by Russia, just as we have made it clear that we are committed to defending sovereignty, territorial integrity and the right of states to choose their own security arrangements.
But it remains unclear whether Russia is interested in pursuing its goals through diplomacy rather than the use of force.
We remain determined to keep alive the prospect of de-escalation through diplomacy. But we are also clear-headed about the prospects of this, given the obvious steps Russia is taking on the ground in plain sight, right before our eyes. Stakes – the stakes are too high not to give Russia every chance of avoiding action that we believe would be catastrophic.
So, as always, we are continuing on two tracks: diplomacy, including maintaining close alignment with our partners and allies, as evidenced by the President’s repeated bilateral engagements, including with President Zelenskyy, his appeal yesterday with key allies and today’s call with President Putin, as well as calls from other senior officials with their counterparts in all of those same categories.
In the meantime, we are stepping up our efforts to deter Russia and impose costs on it should it decide to pursue military action despite everything.
You will have seen the announcement yesterday of sending 3,000 additional American troops to Poland. Our security aid deliveries to Ukraine have continued over the past few days, and our discussions with the EU, UK, Canada and other partners and allies to ensure that we are ready to impose immediately severe financial penalties and export controls also come to a head. .
We continue to reduce our diplomatic presence in Kyiv, as you have seen, and the President has been very direct with President Putin about our concern for the safety and security of Americans still in Ukraine.
Whatever Russia decides, our assessment is that its efforts to improve its strategic position are already failing and it will only get worse if it decides to take military action.
The transatlantic relationship is more closely aligned than it has been for some time. NATO is stronger and more determined. Russia already finds itself increasingly isolated from the rest of the world and more dependent on China, having together revealed a fundamentally different worldview at odds with the principled, affirmative and rights-respecting worldview and values. international that we defend.
And Russia finds itself on the defensive in the information space, given our own transparency about its intentions.
Over time, if Russia invades, this list will also include severe economic cost that I have already described and irrevocable reputational damage caused by innocent people dying for a bloody choice of war.
Both presidents agreed that our teams will remain engaged in the days ahead. Russia can still decide to take military action. Indeed, that is a distinct possibility.
If so, the damage to Ukraine, to European security and, yes, to Russia will be profound. It’s an outcome that President Biden believes we must continue to work hard to avoid.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Operator, we’re ready to take questions now.
Q Thank you very much for calling. Could you talk a bit about, you know, all that President Biden has brought to the table today in terms of proposals, with respect to an exit ramp that he says can lead us to de-escalation? And then, could you also tell us a bit if you had any signs that an operation was more imminent than previously thought? Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: Thank you, Trevor. So listen, our view is that we have been bringing serious and substantial ideas to the diplomatic table for a period of weeks now. Many of these ideas are already in the public domain. We offered them directly to the Russians during diplomatic discussions. We have developed them in close consultation with our partners and allies. And President Biden continued to take this approach during the call with President Putin.
We have also been very clear that our strong preference is not to negotiate in public as we do not believe that is the best way to find a path to de-escalation, which is our main priority for these diplomatic conversations.
So I’m not going to go into that part of the conversation in detail, but I would say that the president has continued on the path that we’ve been on for some time, which is a mode of problem-solving and finding solutions that are in our interests, the interests of our partners and allies, and which can address at least some of the concerns raised by Russia.
Q Hello, thank you for doing this, [senior administration official]. Two questions. You said an attack was a “distinct possibility”. The tone of yesterday’s briefing was that the attack was imminent and the decision had been made. Could you clarify this?
And then, in terms of continuing to supply military equipment to Ukraine, would that continue after a military attack from Russia, and could the nature of that support change? I’m thinking of things like anti-aircraft weapons and so on.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICER: So I guess I would say two things: I would direct you to the comments that my colleague, Jake Sullivan, made on this idea of whether President Putin has made up his mind. You know, I think the honest answer to that question is that we don’t have full visibility into President Putin’s decision-making. You should address this question to the Kremlin or to President Putin himself.
But, you know, we’re not basing our assessment of that on what the Russians say publicly. We base this assessment on what we see on the ground with our own eyes, namely a continued Russian buildup on the border with Ukraine and no significant evidence of de-escalation or, indeed, any interest in de-escalation . So we feel that the trends we’ve been seeing and talking about for many weeks are continuing. And, you know, beyond that, I don’t think we have any real ideas to offer.
As for our plans for the future, I think President Biden and other officials have been clear that if Russia continues to escalate, the United States will continue to increase its support for Ukraine to enable it to defend itself. And, you know, that approach hasn’t changed.
Q Hello. Thank you. So, I wonder if you can tell us a bit about whether or not the alleged false flag plans were discussed on the call, and what – if so, if you can characterize Putin’s response.
And also, there were reports of some sort of close encounter between Russian and American submarines today, and I wonder if they discussed that as well. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICER: So on your first point, I mean, I think, generally speaking, you can conclude that the issues that we raised concerns about publicly are raised privately between the two presidents. They have pretty direct conversations, I would say, on both sides. And so, if there is an issue that we have brought to your attention through briefings and other forums, you can conclude that the chairs have also extensively discussed it.
But beyond that, I don’t want to go into the details of what we’ve raised, and certainly not – I certainly won’t – we’re not going down the road of characterizing President Putin’s response. It’s just not something we tend to do with the other parts of these conversations in these readings.
In this close encounter, I would definitely direct you to the Pentagon for this. You know, I don’t have any information to provide about that on this call.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you all. We have to wrap up now. With the conclusion of the appeal, the embargo is lifted.
Small friendly reminder, we are on the bottom, attributed to a “senior official of the administration”. Thank you all.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: Thank you.
1:03 PM EST