US President Joe Biden appears to back off the defense of Ukraine, and draws red line at NATO's border, saying that the United States and NATO would defend "every inch" of its territory if attacked by Russia. Ukraine is not part of NATO.
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Biden said the US and NATO will not be intimidated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin is "not going to scare us," he added.
Biden then pointed his finger into the television camera as he warned of Putin against any attack spilling beyond Ukraine onto NATO territory.
"America's fully prepared, with our NATO allies, to defend every single inch of NATO territory," he said. "Mr. Putin, don't misunderstand what I'm saying: every inch."
The US made it clear that this does not include Ukraine. Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that now is the wrong time to consider Kiev’s NATO membership.
New York-based journalist Don DeBar said, “That's a very interesting development by the way. It appears to be a retreat.”
“It's become apparent that Washington's strategy is not to reconquer Ukraine's former territories, because obviously that is not possible. Instead, they want Ukraine to fight a brush fire war on its territory, hoping to stoke unrest inside Russia and burn up weaponry and manpower, to soften Russia up for an eventual takedown,” Debar told Press TV on Friday.
“It appears that some of the reported rumblings inside Ukraine's military flow from a recognition of this fact. Probably the country's greatest hope would be a military coup, followed by an attempt at making peace and even rapprochement among the various warring groups inside Ukraine, the seceded republics and Russia, including the purging of the Nazis from the government and civil society. The Ukrainians and Russians will have to live on that land long after all of this mess is through. Some folks in Ukraine, obviously in the military, recognize this and are trying to salvage what's left in a very bad situation,” he added.
Biden was speaking shortly after Putin signed a decree for the formal accession of four regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the Russian Federation.
Presiding over a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of the four regions in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin announced that people in these regions are now considered Russian citizens as they have made their choice in referendums.
The Russian leader stressed that Ukraine has to respect the will of the people, vowing to defend the Russian land with all means.
Putin cited the “will of millions of people” shown by the referendums as the determining factor behind the move to join the territories as part of Russia.
The development came after people in the four regions overwhelmingly voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation in referendums.
Biden called out his Putin's "reckless words and threats" but dismissed Friday's ceremony as a "sham routine that he put on" to show strength, while instead demonstrating that "he's struggling."
The Biden administration slapped additional sanctions on Moscow in reaction to the referenda resulting in four territories joining Russia.
The departments of Treasury, Commerce, and State each announced separate sanctions intended to target more than a thousand individuals, including decision-makers in Moscow and allies of Putin.
The White House national security adviser has said the United States will “respond decisively” if Putin orders the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, while Moscow has advised Washington of its nuclear “red line”.
On Friday, Sullivan said Putin resorting to nuclear weapons doesn't appear imminent.
"There is a risk, given all the loose talk and nuclear saber-rattling by Putin, that he would consider this and we've been equally clear about what the consequences would be," Sullivan told reporters at the White House press briefing.
"We do not presently see indications about the imminent use of nuclear weapons,” he added.
Sullivan said Washington was communicating privately but "directly with Russia about the kind of decisive response the United States would have."
“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” Sullivan told reporters.
Biden has warned Putin against thoughts of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, adding that it would “change the face of war unlike anything since WWII.”
Biden said Moscow would become a global pariah if it uses weapons of mass destruction on the former Soviet state.
Putin last month hinted at being willing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.