On Kyiv’s Streets, a Nervous Calm

Ukraine’s leaders have been working to calm anxiety among the population as the threat of a Russian invasion continues to loom. On social media platforms, Ukrainians have been trading tips on how to prepare for war. On the streets of the capital, Kyiv, life continues as normal and many people are reluctant to speak openly about the tensions. In this report narrated by Jon Spier, for VOA, Ricardo Marquina is in Kyiv and has their story. 
Camera: Ricardo Marquina    
Produced by: Ricardo Marquina, MHarton

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Is Russia’s Putin a Rash Gambler or Calculating Risk-Taker?

Russian officials have said they don’t need peace at any cost, but what price are they prepared to pay for war?

The answer to that question would help Western policymakers determine what they must do to deter Russian leader Vladimir Putin as he seeks to remake Europe’s post-Cold War security order to his liking. 

Western leaders say the Russian leader is prepared to invade Ukraine if he fails to secure the concessions he wants from the United States and NATO that in effect would carve out for Russia a Soviet-era-like sphere of influence across eastern Europe. Russian officials deny they have any intentions to invade their neighbor, despite an unprecedented massive military buildup along the borders of Ukraine. 

Dmitri Trenin, a longtime Kremlin-watcher and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank, worries the lack so far of a diplomatic solution “will logically lead to a further escalation of the crisis, and increase the chances the only way out of it will be through the use of what Russian officials call military-technical means.” 

Washington consistently has rejected Putin’s demand that Ukraine never to be allowed to join NATO, as well as his insistence the Western alliance remove any military presence in other former Soviet bloc nations which are now NATO members.

Trenin doubts a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine is likely, though he concedes in a commentary the situation remains volatile and unpredictable. By escalating tensions with the West to a boiling point, Moscow may consider it already has achieved some wins, including forcing the U.S. to discuss European strategic issues for the first time since the end of the Cold War, he says. Trenin also contends Putin most likely has squelched any chance of NATO admitting Ukraine as a member.

Others, though, are reading the geopolitical confrontation differently. Timothy Ash, a risk analyst at Bluebay Asset Management in London, fears Putin is a gambler who may have gone too far to back down. He agrees the Russian leader already has notched up some accomplishments.

“Putin has enhanced his image as the guy who calls the shots and the poker player with all the cards. More than ever, he is seen as a leader who everyone has to contend with if they want solutions to the geopolitical problems that he typically creates himself,” Ash says.

But Ash cautions: “If the Russian leader does not proceed with some form of military action in the weeks ahead, his bluff will have been called” and he would risk “emerging from the current crisis as a net loser unless he proceeds further. Does he see it the same way? If so, will he escalate from here? At this point, he may feel that he has little choice.”


Putin appears to relish courting, calculating and taking risks. In 2019, the editors of Britain’s Financial Times newspaper conducted a 90-minute interview with the Russian leader. They noted: “Just before midnight, Vladimir Putin perks up at the mention of the word ‘risk.’ It encapsulates the man and his 20 years in power.” 

His interviewers talked with him near a bronze statue of Russia’s legendary and expansionist Tsar Peter the Great, one of Putin’s heroes who carved out a Russian empire in the 18th century. They tried to explore whether the Russian president is a rash gambler or a calculating, and more cautious, risk-taker. But he was elusive and teasing.

They asked him if his appetite for risk-taking had increased with each passing year. He responded: “It did not increase or decrease. Risk must always be well-justified.” But then Putin cited a popular Russian phrase: “He who doesn’t take risks, never drinks champagne.” 

Some risks, Putin clearly thinks, are beneath leaders of great powers to fret over. Asked about the attempted assassination in 2018 in England of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, which the British government has blamed on the Kremlin, Putin bristled. “Listen, all this fuss about spies and counterspies, it is not worth serious interstate relations. This spy story, as we say, is not worth five kopecks.” A kopeck is worth a hundredth of a ruble.

Invading Ukraine would cost Russia a lot more, and the risks would be massive in terms of loss of life (Russian, as well as Ukrainian) along with treasure. Putin and his aides have made no secret that a key domestic goal is to upgrade and modernize Russia’s economy. In his Financial Times interview, Putin highlighted that, saying, “The most important task we need to achieve is to change the structure of the economy and secure a substantial growth of labor productivity through modern technologies.” One of his aides emphasized that in an interview, too, with VOA a few months earlier.

War’s downsides

War in Ukraine possibly may be too big of a risk for Putin to take, reckon some longtime Putin-watchers. Economically for Russia, it likely would result in capital flight, with many foreign investors fleeing the country or reducing their investments and would mean much slower economic growth.

All of that would lead to declining living standards of ordinary Russians, which in turn could trigger the kind of major social unrest that rocked Kazakhstan this month and which the Kremlin always fears. Russians already are complaining about feeling an economic pinch and Putin’s popularity and trust ratings in opinion polls have been slumping for months. 

Modernization of the economy would be set back by years and possibly decades by a further wave of tough sanctions — especially if Washington includes in them, as it has threatened to do, novel export controls that would bar the export to Russia of products that are fitted with electronic components and software designed and/or manufactured in the United States. 

The export controls would disrupt strategic Russian industries, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing and civilian aerospace sectors, Biden administration officials say. They note there is hardly a semiconductor on the planet that is not made with American tools or designed with American software.

“Despite being described as reckless, Putin is anything but,” notes Eugene Rumer, a former national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council. Now an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, a Washington-based think tank. “Putin surely is not blind to the risks of war,” he has argued. 

Cost of war

Some Western diplomats tell VOA that Putin will stay his hand this time and continue with hybrid warfare and cycles of escalation and de-escalation, which present him with more opportunities to roil and divide Western allies. They note the foreign risks he’s courted to date have been limited. His military foray in Libya has been disguised by using mercenaries, and in Syria he mainly restricted Russian intervention to airstrikes, deploying ground forces sparingly, thereby minimizing Russian casualties. 

Other diplomats worry Putin may see this as his best chance to rectify what he sees as historical slights by the West and to restore Russia’s dominant role in central and eastern Europe. It will all come down to whether he is a rash gambler, who wants to wager on one big win, or a calculated risk-taker prepared to notch up incremental wins, they say. 

Western leaders are trying to increase the price of war for Russia — economically and in terms of Russian casualties. Some of Washington’s European NATO partners are joining in supplying Ukraine with more lethal weaponry that could be used in an insurgency, if Russia invades.

Putin was in his 30s and 40s when Russia waged a costly and ultimately unsuccessful nine-year counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan in the 1990s, seen by many scholars as a contributing factor to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This week, Britain’s Boris Johnson cited what befell Russia in Afghanistan, warning publicly that an invasion of Ukraine would be “disastrous” for Russia.

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Навчання, дипломатія, оборона: найновіші фотографії кризи довкола України

Росія проводить військові навчання біля кордону України. Активістка FEMEN протестує проти військового обліку жінок. Поліція затримує нацгвардійця, який застрелив п’ятьох людей у Дніпропетровській області. Події в Україні та поблизу її кордонів на тлі напруженості через загрозу вторгнення Росії.

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Ukrainian Serviceman Kills 4 Fellow Soldiers, 1 Civilian 

A member of Ukraine’s National Guard on Thursday opened fire on his fellow soldiers, killing five people and wounding five more, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. The serviceman was detained by police but his motives remain unclear.

The incident occurred in the city of Dnipro, 500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of Kyiv on Thursday morning. The soldier, identified by the authorities as Artemiy Ryabchuk, 20, was on guard duty at a military factory and opened fire on his colleagues, fleeing the scene immediately after.

Four soldiers and one civilian died, and five more people sustained injuries. Police detained Ryabchuk shortly after the shooting. It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted him to open fire.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy demanded the authorities thoroughly investigate and analyze the incident.

“I expect law enforcement to fully inform the public about all the circumstances of the crime. Motives of the killer, how [the shooting] became possible — everything should be analyzed as thoroughly as possible,” Zelenskiy said in an online statement, adding that conclusions should be drawn from the incident about personnel in the National Guard.

The shooting took place against the backdrop of soaring tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near its borders with Ukraine, stoking fears that such a buildup might indicate plans to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor.

The Kremlin denied harboring such plans, but demanded security guarantees from the West, including a clause precluding NATO from accepting Ukraine and other former Soviet states as members — a demand the U.S. and NATO have rejected as a nonstarter.

Ukraine’s officials have acknowledged the threat of an invasion, but insisted it was not imminent and accused Russia of fomenting tensions and fear among Ukrainians in order to destabilize the country from within. 

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Канада виділяє 340 млн дол на підтримку України – Міноборони

Міністр національної оборони Канади Аніта Ананд, міністр закордонних справ Канади Мелані Джолі приєдналися до прем’єр-міністра Джастіна Трюдо та віцепрем’єр-міністра Христії Фріланд і оголосили про рішення щодо виділення 340 мільйонівдоларів на негайну підтримку України та на продовження операції UNIFIER ще на три роки – до кінця березня 2025, а також збільшення кількості особового складу навчальної місії в Україні до 400 осіб.

«Канада непохитно підтримує суверенітет, територіальну цілісність та незалежність України. Канада стурбована і засуджує загрози Росії та військове нарощування в Україні та навколо неї. Канада залишається відданою дипломатичному розв’язанню і продовжує закликати Росію до деескалації та вступу до змістовного діалогу. Будь-яка подальша агресія з боку Росії матиме серйозні наслідки, і Канада продовжує співпрацювати з союзниками та партнерами над скоординованою відповіддю. Сьогоднішнє оголошення демонструє непохитну відданість Канади Україні та її народу через цей посилений внесок у допомогу у їх обороноздатності», – йдеться в офіційному повідомленні уряду Канади.

Ця посилена підтримка допоможе Україні зміцнити її безпеку та здатність захищатися від низки загроз, прокоментував міністр оборони України Олексій Резніков

«Дякуємо канадському народу та Уряду за непохитну підтримку Збройних сил України у протистоянні російській загрозі. Обмін розвідувальною інформацією, допомога в проведенні кібероперацій та засоби індивідуального захисту значно посилять можливості українського війська у стримуванні агресора», – сказав Резніков.

За даними Міноборони України, з 2015 року канадські війська провели понад 600 курсів, навчаючи майже 33 тисяч українських військовослужбовців і представників сектору безпеки низці тактичних і передових військових навичок. Повідомляється, що уряд Канади також оголосив про створення оперативної групи на базі Global Affairs Canada для подальшої координації зусиль федеральних відомств у підтримці миру та безпеки в Україні.

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Australia Offers Gas to Europe as Russia-Ukraine Tensions Mount

Australia has offered to provide additional liquefied natural gas to Europe, should Russia decide to cut off energy supplies as tensions rise over Ukraine.

As tensions over Ukraine grow between Russia and the West, there are mounting fears that Moscow could reduce or shut down the gas it supplies to Europe.

The European Union is already short of gas after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions put huge demands on depleted stocks. The EU depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies and could need alternative sources as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine escalate.

Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of liquefied natural gas or LNG and is prepared to boost its exports to European countries.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan said in a statement Thursday that Australia was “ready to support our friends and allies in the current challenging and complex, geostrategic environment.”

Tony Wood, Energy Program director at the Grattan Institute, an Australian research organization, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Australia was well-placed to help.


“Australia, the United States and Qatar together supply about 50% of the world’s LNG as shipped natural gas, whereas what Russia provides, obviously, is via pipeline,” he said. “But there is some flexibility there. So, what is happening now is that they are looking to see if they can get supplies from elsewhere. The U.S. is trying to coordinate some of that, and some Australian gas has already been used to help supplement the problem at the moment, and, of course, it could get worse if the situation in Ukraine gets worse.”

Russia’s gas exports to Europe are mostly pumped through pipelines that go through Ukraine or other Eastern European nations. Moscow has insisted that the Ukrainian system was dilapidated and has accused its neighbor of stealing gas.

Analysts have said that Russia could be using tensions over Ukraine to promote its plan for a new gas pipeline to Germany that bypasses Poland and Ukraine.

The Australian government has also urged its citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, as Russian troops gather on the border and the threat of an invasion grows.

The government has estimated there are about 1,400 Australians in Ukraine. Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, said Tuesday the advice to leave was “a cautious and prudent step because the security situation is unpredictable.” 





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Посольство США запропонувало американцям подумати про від’їзд з України. У МЗС просять не нагнітати

Міністерство закордонних справ закликало «іноземних партнерів утримуватися від кроків у публічному просторі, які нагнітають інформаційне поле і розхитують суспільство»

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US to Russia: No Change on NATO, Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the ball is now in Russia’s court after the U.S. hand delivered its written response to Moscow’s stated security concerns over NATO and Ukraine. As VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports, Blinken made clear there will be no change to NATO’s open-door policy to new members, as Russia had demanded.
Producer: Kimberlyn Weeks

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State Department Recap: January 20-26, 2022 

Here’s a look at what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats have been doing this week:

US, Russia, Ukraine

Following consultations with various European partners as well as Ukraine, the United States and NATO provided written responses to Moscow addressing Russia’s renewed security demands — the latest moves in diplomatic maneuvering aimed at heading off armed conflict.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the document in person Wednesday to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Separately, NATO transmitted to Russia its own responses regarding European security in a document described by officials as a few pages in length.

US Responds to Russia’s Security Demands, Renewing Call for Diplomacy 

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman assessed that China’s hosting of the Winter Olympics early next month was a factor in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculation of military actions against Ukraine.

“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4 — the opening ceremony — and Putin is expected to be there,” Sherman said. “I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine. So, that may affect his timing and his thinking.”

On Sunday, the State Department ordered the departure of eligible family members from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct-hire employees amid the continued threat of Russian military action against Ukraine. The State Department also asked U.S. citizens in Ukraine to consider departing the country via commercial or other privately available transportation options.

US Orders Departure of Family Members of Ukraine Embassy Staff ​

Burkina Faso

The State Department said it was watching closely “the fluid situation” in Burkina Faso, where a military junta ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. But the U.S. said it was “too soon” to officially characterize the events in Burkina Faso as a coup.

“We call for the immediate release of President Kabore and other government officials, and for members of the security forces to respect Burkina Faso’s constitution and civilian leadership. We urge all sides in this fluid situation to remain calm and to seek dialogue as a means to resolve grievances,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said this week during a press briefing.

Burkina Faso Soldiers Say They Deposed President


The United States warned Iran was just weeks from developing the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. The alarm came amid indirect negotiations between the two countries seeking a mutual return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal.

“[Iran] is getting to the point where its breakout time, the time it would take to produce fissile material for a bomb, is getting down to a matter of a few weeks,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a virtual event Monday. How the U.S. and its allies would deal with the risks will be decided soon, Blinken said, adding that “given what Iran is doing, we can’t allow this to go on.”

As Iran Nears Uranium Breakout Capacity, US Mulls Bomb-Making Scenarios

Human trafficking 

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department released its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report.” Blinken called for other countries to improve “collective efforts to comprehensively address human trafficking,” as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

State Department Releases Annual Trafficking in Persons Report

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Ex-Irish Soldier Justified Jihad Before Joining IS, Witness Says

A former Irish army soldier justified jihad suicide bombings while attending a mosque in Ireland before she joined the Islamic State group in Syria, a Dublin court was told Wednesday.

Lisa Smith, 39, is on trial accused of being a member of the Islamist extremists after traveling to war-ravaged Syria in 2015.

She has pleaded not guilty to membership of an unlawful terrorist group between October 28, 2015, and December 1, 2019.

She has also denied funding terrorism by sending $900 to aid medical treatment for a Syrian man in Turkey.

But Carol Karimah Duffy, who introduced Smith to a mosque in Dundalk before she left for Syria, said she made attendees there uncomfortable.

“There was a lot of talk about justifying why the suicide bombs were happening,” Duffy told the Special Criminal Court of Smith’s conversations with others at the mosque.

“That we were being attacked so we were attacking back. It was us and them,” Duffy said. “Then there was talk of jihad and it was her version of jihad, which would have been the holy war jihad.”

Duffy added that Smith also said she wanted to find a husband who would be willing to die as a Muslim martyr.

Smith moved to IS-controlled territory in October 2015 after buying a one-way ticket from Dublin to Turkey, and from there crossing the border to Syria.

The court was told on Tuesday that she lived in Raqqa, the capital of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s self-styled caliphate, and unsuccessfully attempted to get her husband to join her.

He refused and she divorced him in 2016. Some months later, she married a U.K. national who had moved to Syria and been involved in patrols on the Iraq border.

When Raqqa fell to allied forces in 2018, she moved to Baghouz, the group’s last remaining stronghold.

After that too fell in March 2019, she eventually returned to Ireland and was arrested on arrival with her young daughter at Dublin airport on December 1.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane said Smith had “enveloped herself in the black flag of ISIS” in response to a call to arms from Baghdadi.

In doing so, she had self-identified as a member of the proscribed group, he told the three judges at the court in the Irish capital who will rule on the case.

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US Responds to Russia’s Security Demands, Renewing Call for Diplomacy

The United States has provided its written response to Russia’s security demands after consulting with NATO allies and European partners, including Ukraine, while renewing calls for U.S.-Russia diplomatic talks. 

“The document we’ve delivered includes concerns of the United States and our allies and partners about Russia’s actions that undermine security — a principled and pragmatic evaluation of the concerns that Russia has raised, and our own proposals for areas where we may be able to find common ground,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday at a press conference. 

U.S. officials have said Washington and Moscow could still find consensus and see potential for progress, including on issues such as arms control related to missiles in Europe. 

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the document in person to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. NATO separately transmitted to Russia its own paper about European security, described by officials as a few pages in length. 

U.S. officials declined to elaborate on specifics. Moscow’s security demands include a pause of NATO’s eastward expansion, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as a rollback of NATO troops in Eastern Europe. The U.S. has dismissed those demands as nonstarters while offering dialogue with Russia on issues including military exercises and transparency, as well as the placement of missiles. 

“We’ve addressed the possibility of reciprocal transparency measures regarding force posture in Ukraine, as well as measures to increase confidence regarding military exercises and maneuvers in Europe,” Blinken said. “We are acting with equal focus and force to bolster Ukraine’s defenses and prepare a swift united response to further Russian aggression.” 

The U.S. has laid out its grave concerns over possible further Russian military aggression against Ukraine while requesting a follow-up discussion between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday said Ukraine had no objections to the U.S. responses to Russia, which are seen as part of negotiations to avert Moscow’s military escalation against Kyiv. Kuleba added that Russia was trying to sow panic in Ukraine. 

“The number of Russian troops massed along the border of Ukraine and in the occupied territories of Ukraine is large (and) … poses a threat,” Kuleba said ​during a Wednesday press briefing. “However, at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for the full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border.” 

While the U.S. would not rule out an imminent military move by Russia against Ukraine, a senior State Department official noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin may not want to upset China when the country is hosting the opening ceremony of Winter Olympics. 

“We certainly see every indication that (Putin) is going to use military force sometime perhaps now and middle of February,” said Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday during a virtual event with Yalta European Strategy, a European security forum. 

“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4 — the opening ceremony — and Putin is expected to be there,” added Sherman. “I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine. So that may affect his timing and his thinking.” 

Some analysts agreed with the assessment, noting Russia’s military logistics “have not yet been fully activated to start massive military operations.” 

“The Winter Olympics in China, to be held between 4-20 February, might offer some respite,” said Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow for the Russia and Eurasia program of London-based Chatham House. “To safeguard relations with Beijing, Moscow may avoid repeating its actions of August 2008, when Russia took military action against Georgia, literally during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics.” 

In Kyiv, the U.S. embassy is urging American citizens in the country to consider departing now, citing an “unpredictable” security situation that “can deteriorate with little notice.” 

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian officials rejected the prospect of U.S. sanctions against Putin, one of several proposed responses if Russian forces were to invade neighboring Ukraine. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such sanctions would be “destructive” but not politically painful. 

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of “severe” and “enormous” consequences for Putin — including personal sanctions against Putin himself — if the Russian leader mobilizes troops standing ready to strike along the Ukrainian border. Ukrainian intelligence officials put troop estimates at 127,000. 

VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara, Anita Powell and Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 


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Russia Rejects Biden Warning of ‘Severe’ Actions if it Invades Ukraine

Russia on Wednesday rejected the prospect of U.S. sanctions against President Vladimir Putin, one of several proposed responses if Russian forces were to invade neighboring Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such sanctions would not be politically painful, but would be “destructive.”

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of “severe” and “enormous” consequences for Putin — including personal sanctions against Putin himself — if the Russian leader mobilizes the estimated 127,000 troops who stand ready to strike along the Ukrainian border.


“I have made it clear early on to President Putin that if he were to move into Ukraine, that there would be severe consequences, including significant economic sanctions as well as I’d feel obliged to beef up our presence, NATO’s presence, on the eastern front, Poland, Romania, etc,” Biden said, adding: “If he were to move in with all those forces, it would be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world.”

He also stressed that none of the 8,500 U.S. troops put on high alert this week would be moved into Ukrainian territory, and they would be deployed as part of a NATO operation, not a sole U.S. operation. He did not say when he might decide to order those troops into theater.

Biden said the United States has a “sacred obligation” to come to the aid of NATO allies that face threats. Ukraine is not a member of NATO — though it wants to be. However, neighboring Russia sees possible NATO membership as a threat and has demanded that the security alliance bar Ukraine from membership. Putin has said he has no intention to invade Ukraine but sees NATO’s eastward expansion as a threat.

“And I’ve spoken with every one of our NATO allies … virtually, and we’re all on the same page,’ Biden said. “We’ve got to make it clear that there’s no reason for anyone, any member of NATO, to worry whether or not … we — NATO — would come to their defense.”

Efforts to resolve the situation diplomatically involved talks last week among Russia, the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.


Russia is awaiting a written response to its proposals, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told lawmakers Wednesday that if “the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy used a televised address Tuesday to urge calm at home.

“There are no rose-colored glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple. … But there is hope,” Zelenskiy said. “Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic.”

Zelenskiy said plans are being made for him to meet with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France. Officials from the four countries were due to hold talks on Wednesday in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday he would seek clarification about Russia’s intentions during a phone call with Putin scheduled for Friday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, in a response to a question from VOA, said Tuesday that Russian forces have grown “consistently” but not “dramatically.”

“We have seen a consistent accumulation of combat power by the Russians in the western part of their country around the borders with Ukraine and Belarus,” Kirby said.


Earlier in the day, the United States warned Russia it would face faster and far more severe economic consequences if it invades Ukraine than it did when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

“We are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014,” a national security official told reporters in Washington. “That means the gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there.”

The security official, speaking anonymously, said the United States is “also prepared to impose novel export controls” to hobble the Russian economy.

“We use them to prohibit the export of products from Russia,” the official said. “And given the reason they work is if you … step back and look at the global dominance of U.S.-origin software technology, the export control options we’re considering alongside our allies and partners would hit Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard, and it would impair areas that are of importance to him, whether it’s in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or defense or aerospace or other key sectors.”

The United States and its allies imposed less severe economic sanctions against Moscow after its Crimean takeover, but they ultimately proved ineffective, and the peninsula remains under Russian control.

Russia’s demand that Ukraine be barred from NATO has been dismissed by the West, where leaders have said they won’t give Moscow veto power over who belongs to the 30-country military alliance that was founded to counter Soviet aggression after World War II.

VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell and VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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