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President Biden is set to speak with key European allies to “coordinate his message” ahead of his private video conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, a senior administration official said, as the president plans to “make clear” that there will be “very real costs” should Russia choose to proceed with a potential invasion of Ukraine.
A senior administration official previewed Biden’s call with Putin, which is set to take place Tuesday evening, as tensions between the United States and Russia escalate over a Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border— a signal of a potential Kremlin invasion.
Biden is set to speak with key European allies Monday to ensure “allied unity and strong transatlantic solidarity” on the path forward, the official said, adding that Biden administration officials will continue weeks of “intense diplomacy” and discussions with both the Russians and the Ukrainians.
A senior U.S. defense official confirmed to Fox News that U.S. intelligence shows signs that Putin plans to invade Ukraine on multiple fronts using 175,000 troops in early 2022— something the U.S. government is taking seriously.
At this point, Russia has approximately 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine.
The official noted that U.S. intelligence has seen the “movement of additional capabilities and forces to the vicinity of Ukraine in multiple different areas,” saying the movements are “consistent with the planning that we see underway for a military escalation in Ukraine.”
However, the Biden administration stopped short of saying Putin’s plans with regard to an invasion of Ukraine were definite.
“To be clear, we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision about further military escalation in Ukraine, but we do know that he is putting in place the capacity to engage in such escalation should he decide to do so,” the official said.
“President Biden will make clear that there will be very real costs should Russia choose to proceed,” the official added.
Biden is expected to conduct Tuesday’s call with Putin in a “professional, candid and straightforward manner,” and convey, “without any kind of rhetorical flourish or finger wagging” that the United States is prepared to respond to any escalation.
But as for military force, the senior administration official said the U.S. is “not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force,” but rather pointed to “a combination of support for the Ukrainian military, strong economic countermeasures, and the substantial increase in support and capability to our NATO allies to ensure that they remain safe.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to hold a call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky ahead of Biden’s call with Putin Tuesday.
The Biden administration has expressed concern about the Russian military activity since early last month, with Blinken saying at the time that officials were “monitoring the region very closely.”
“As we’ve made clear, any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern to the United States,” Blinken said, noting that the administration supports “de-escalation” in the region and “diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.”
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met last month with Ukrainian officials and “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
U.S. officials, though, said that even amid the threat of a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared than in the past.
Ukrainian officials have said Russia could invade by next month, with Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, saying the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300. He also warned that a “large-scale escalation” is possible in January.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the plans for the conversation between Biden and Putin over the weekend, saying “the presidents will decide themselves” how long their conversation will last.
Biden spoke with Putin over the summer, and pressed him to intervene in Russia-based criminal hacking gangs launching ransomware attacks against the United States. Biden, at the time, said the U.S. would take any necessary steps to protect critical infrastructure from any suck attacks.
On Monday, a senior administration official said that the call between Biden and Putin would “not be confined” to the topic of Ukraine, as there are “other topics that are critical to America’s national security,” specifically noting the “continuing challenge in cyberspace” and the need to “make progress” with regard to strategic stability in both the nuclear and space domains.
The official also said Biden would raise the issue of the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the threat posed to “regional peace and security, as well as international peace and security.”
“All of this will be on the agenda in the conversation,” the official said.
Fox News’ Pat Ward and The Associated Press contributed to this report.