Joe Biden’s speech from the White House on Tuesday, Feb 14, seemed like a closing argument. He hinted that the White House still expects Russia to take military action.

Biden briefly acknowledged Moscow’s claims of troop withdrawals before immediately contradicting them, raising the US estimate of the number of troops around Ukraine to 150,000 in a threatening position.

Biden addresses Americans

Biden spoke directly to the American people, warning them that he does not want to pretend that this would be painless. He promised, in his speech, that his administration would do what it could to help. It was the kind of statement given on the eve of a significant event (generally a military action) to prepare the public for what was about to happen.

The President also attempted to talk over Putin’s head to ordinary Russians about Russia’s extraordinary military deployments in Ukraine. Biden spoke of their strong links of family history and culture with the Ukrainians, warning that a war was likely to tarnish the country’s name in history. “The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction,” he said.

He, however, made it clear that America was open to discussions on shared security concerns. He stated that conversations would continue as long as there was hope for diplomacy. However, he maintained that the US would not compromise on the fundamental principle of Ukraine and other countries’ right to select their allies.

America wants no surprises

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, stressed earlier during the day that Ukrainian membership was unlikely to happen in the near future. However, he did not share President Biden’s conciliatory note. The United States has maintained that verbal assurances of this nature will not be enough for the Russian Federation. 

Biden’s speech appears to be a part of his administration’s deliberate policy of thinking out loud about the crisis and consistently sharing some of the worst fears it has. The logic behind this is that America isn’t sure what the Russian President can do, but it’s evident that Putin likes to spring surprises. Given this, it seems likely that the Biden administration is creating an environment of worst-case predictions. This way, the only thing Putin can do to surprise the US is to opt for peace. 

Of late, many critics have called out the Biden administration for appearing weak for the manner in which American troops left Afghanistan. However, sources revealed that President Biden had lost faith in the US’ mission in Afghanistan long ago, but he wholeheartedly believes in Nato. Biden even used the word “sacrosanct” to describe the US’ obligation to all its allies.