US Vice President Joe Biden believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will “go in” on Ukraine, but that he does not want a “full-blown conflict.”
Mr Putin would pay a “severe and dear price” for invading, he said at a news conference, but a minor incursion would be regarded differently.
Later, the White House stated that any military move by Russia will be greeted with a rapid and strong retaliation from the West.
The Kremlin cautioned that the remarks might worsen the situation.
Although Russia has 100,000 troops along the border, it denies plans to invade.
President Putin has issued a series of demands to the West, including that Ukraine be denied membership in Nato and that the defence alliance cease military operations in Eastern Europe.
At a televised press conference last month, Mr Putin stated, “Any further eastward expansion of Nato is unacceptable.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with foreign ministers from Germany, France, and the United Kingdom on Thursday to coordinate Western policy in the event of a possible invasion of Ukraine. He has previously stated that Russia may launch an attack on Ukraine at any time.
Mr. Biden stated at a news conference on Wednesday: “In Nato, there are variances in what countries are ready to do depending on the situation.
“If Russian military breach the border, everything changes, in my opinion.
“What you’ll see is that if Russia invades, it will be held accountable, and it will depend on what it does,” he said. “It’s one thing if it’s a tiny infiltration, but then we have to battle over what to do and what not to do, and so on.”
Following Mr Biden’s remarks, White House officials hurried to clarify the US position. “Any Russian military forces moving across the Ukrainian border is a new invasion, and the US and its allies will respond swiftly, severely, and unitedly,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned.
In reaction, the Kremlin stated that any threats of dire consequences for Russia would not help to defuse tensions and would even worsen the situation.
Russia claims that the West and Ukraine are launching a propaganda campaign to distract from their own aggressive behaviour. Maria Zakharova, a spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, warned that it might have “tragic consequences for regional and global security.”
Russia’s Putin has long claimed that the US betrayed a promise it made in 1990 not to expand Nato eastward. “They absolutely tricked us!” he exclaimed during a press conference last month.
Different people have different ideas about what Mikhail Gorbachev, the then-Soviet leader, was promised. Mr Putin, on the other hand, appears to believe the guarantee was given.
Since then, a number of nations in Central and Eastern Europe that were once part of the Soviet Union or its sphere of influence have joined Nato. Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are the four countries that share a border with Russia.
Russia claims that NATO’s expansion, as well as the deployment of troops and military equipment near its borders, poses a direct threat to its security.
“Because we are defending our homeland, we are not terrified. We will not give up our property because it is ours.”
In his Facebook address, President Volodymyr Zelensky advised Ukrainians “not to succumb to panic,” which was an intriguing choice of words.
His speech was a huge success, if the walk to work in an icy Kyiv this morning is any indication – there is no terror on exhibit here.
The reality is that most Ukrainians are sick of hearing about a new Russian invasion, especially since the struggle in the country’s east has been going on for eight years.
President Zelensky has stated that he is “doing everything” to find a diplomatic solution, a statement that has been regarded with scepticism by certain news organisations, with one national network questioning, “Will diplomacy beat war?”
After the overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president in 2014, Russia seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Since then, Ukraine’s military has been at odds with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, close to Russia’s borders.
There are fears that the conflict, which has killed 14,000 lives and displaced at least two million people, could resurface, and that Russia’s military will enter the border.