Dr. Rebecca Grant says Vladimir Putin could face a stinging response if he decides to invade Ukraine.
President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are expected to talk “significantly” about the situation in Ukraine and Russia during his visit to the White House on Monday, as well as their “shared commitment” in the ongoing diplomatic efforts to encourage Moscow to deescalate tensions and prevent an invasion, a senior administration official said.
The president will welcome Scholz to the White House Monday for his first visit to Washington since being sworn in as chancellor—a visit Biden is “very much looking forward to.”
A senior administration official said the president first interacted with Scholz in October, when it was clear he would succeed then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, and said he is looking forward to “getting to know Scholz personally on his first official visit to Washington.”
The visit, the official said, “illustrates the continued importance that the United States places on the bilateral relationship with Germany.”
The official said that Biden and Scholz would speak “significantly” about Ukraine and Russia. The official said they would discuss their hope for a diplomatic resolution, while also the potential preparation of “robust sanctions” against Russia should President Vladimir Putin decide to invade Ukraine.
“We have been coordinating very closely with Germany over the last number of weeks, as we have with other European partners, on the package of swift and severe sanctions we’d put into place in the event of Russian invasion in Ukraine,” the official said. “We welcome the unity we’ve been seeing from allies and partners to join with us in imposing swift and severe sanctions if Russia continues its aggression.”
Scholz, last month, said Germany would help with economic sanctions against Russia in the event of incursion, but said it would not provide “lethal weapons” to Ukraine, leading some to question Germany’s commitment to opposing Russian aggression—particularly amid Germany’s growing dependence on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But the official said Germany has been “very supportive” of things the United States has done “militarily” with regard to the Russia-Ukraine situation, adding that Germany has been a “significant donor to Ukraine” in areas like humanitarian assistance, and helped to facilitate additional troops.
A senior administration official, in previewing the meeting, said that the Biden administration has had “extensive conversations with the Germans,” and said they are “confident Germans share our concerns with Russian aggression.”
“We will continue to work very closely with Germany to ensure the pipeline does not move forward,” the official said.
The Nord Stream 2 has seen a faster development and deployment despite sanctions placed on it by the Trump administration. With those sanctions removed, Germany remains keen to see the pipeline activated sooner than later.
Scholz has insisted that the pipeline is a “business project,” according to German outlet DW.
Biden last year removed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, allowing construction and activation to proceed – a move that some Republican lawmakers criticized for strengthening Russia’s position in negotiations with Europe. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pushed for a vote on preemptive sanctions, which Senate Democrats countered with plans to sanction the pipeline only in the event Russia acts on military ambitions in Ukraine.
The White House underscored this stance, telling Fox News Digital that any preemptive legislation would “have undermined our efforts to deter Russia and removed leverage the United States and our allies and partners possess in this moment all to score political points at home.”
“And it would have come at a moment where we need to be closely united with our European partners, including Germany,” an administration spokesperson said. “It makes no sense.”
The plan to allow Russia to develop the pipeline to create leverage in times of political crisis may have backfired as Germany has also rapidly grown dependent on the completion and activation of the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the official stressed that the United States and Germany are “unified” in terms of awareness of further Russian aggression to Ukraine.
“There is absolute agreement that if there is further Russian aggression, then there are things that need to be done,” the official said, referring back to a “large package” of economic sanctions, which they said Germany is “on board” with.
“We are absolutely confident Germany shares concerns about Russian aggression, and shares support for Ukrainian sovereignty,” the official said, adding that the two leaders are “equally committed to trying to make diplomacy work.”
“Certainly, across the board, there is very much unity of purpose and agreement in the to be able to respond either diplomatically or with sanctions, defending on which path Putin chooses,” the official said.
At this point, the Pentagon confirmed last week that the U.S. has intelligence that Russia is likely to “fabricate” a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. officials believe that Russia is planning to “stage a fake attack by Ukrainian military or intelligence forces against Russian sovereign territory or against Russian-speaking people to therefore justify their action as part of this fake attack,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained.
Last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin put 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened preparedness, as President Biden and his national security officials weighed where to send troops in Eastern Europe to aid Ukraine as part of a broader NATO effort, while Putin threatened incursion.
The 3,000 troops include 2,000 from 82nd Airborne Division and 18th Airborne Corps, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and 1,000 who are currently based in Germany. The troops from Germany will deploy to Romania, the 82 Airborne soldiers will go to Poland, and the 18th Airborne forces will go to Germany.
The Pentagon, on Wednesday, said the forces “are not going to fight in Ukraine,” but instead would “ensure a robust defense of our NATO allies.”
There are already approximately 900 U.S. troops in Romania.
The 8,500 troops that Austin put on heightened standby, though, “are not currently being deployed, but remain ready to move if called for the NATO response force or as needed for other contingencies as directed by the secretary or by President Biden,” Kirby said Wednesday.
Last week, top Pentagon officials said the build-up of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border is the largest since the Cold War, and warned that conflict in Eastern Europe would be “horrific,” but stressed that it is “not inevitable,” maintaining that there is “still time and space for diplomacy,” as the Kremlin continues to threaten further incursion in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the White House, on Wednesday, backed away from its characterization that Russia’s invasion into Ukraine is “imminent,” saying officials “still don’t know” if Putin has “made a decision” on incursion.
Russia has denied it intends to launch an attack. Russian officials said NATO must promise not to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, among other demands, which the United States and NATO have rejected.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya on Monday slammed the West, claiming it is trying to will a Ukrainian war into existence.
Meanwhile, official said Biden and Scholz are also expected to discuss their continued cooperation on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing climate change, and protecting economic prosperity and security. The two leaders are also expected to discuss China—including human rights abuses in the country.
Fox News’ Peter Aitken and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. You can reach her at [email protected] or @BrookeSingman on Twitter.