President Joe Biden will marshal U.S. allies on Thursday in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as Europe faces perhaps its greatest challenge since the end of World War II.
The president said in statements issued overnight that he would meet with the leaders of the G7 – the group of the world’s wealthiest democratic nations – and they would be “imposing severe sanctions on Russia.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized what he described as a “special military operation” against Ukraine late on Wednesday night after the U.S. had warned for weeks that Russia was poised to invade the country.
The U.S. and its allies have also warned that such an invasion would be a major conflict as around 150,000 to 190,000 Russian troops are amassed along Ukraine’s borders.
A military offensive of that size hasn’t taken place in Europe since World War II.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Monday that Russia was preparing for “the biggest war in Europe since 1945.”
“People need to understand the sheer cost in human life that could entail,” the prime minister said.
Ukraine has a population of around 44 million people. Casualties were reportedly in the hundreds as of Thursday morning, with civilians bearing the brunt, though it isn’t known how many of those casualties are deaths.
The White House issued a statement from Biden late on Wednesday night condemning what he called “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” and pledging to work with U.S. allies to organize a response.
“I will meet with my G7 counterparts in the morning and then speak to the American people to announce the further consequences the United States and our Allies and partners will impose on Russia for this needless act of aggression against Ukraine and global peace and security,” Biden said.
“We will also coordinate with our NATO Allies to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance,” Biden’s statement added.
Biden said in a subsequent statement about a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy that “the United States and our Allies and partners will be imposing severe sanctions on Russia.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh said on February 18 that the U.S. had prepared sanctions that would turn Russia into “a pariah to the international community.”
In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday before the invasion began, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would “reinforce NATO” if Russia invaded Ukraine while also “doubling down” on assistance to Kyiv.
“We will reassure all of our allies and partners, by positioning forces to the east among our partners and allies to make sure that they’re protected,” Blinken said.
The Biden administration had already ordered more U.S. troops to Eastern Europe in anticipation of a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, but the president has repeatedly said U.S. troops will not be fighting Russia and that the troop deployments are defensive.
Condemnation in Europe
Multiple European governments condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine on Thursday and warned of consequences. An emergency meeting of European Union ambassadors was underway on Thursday morning.
The EU issued a statement on Thursday condemning Russia’s actions and calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.
“Russia bears full responsibility for this act of aggression and all the destruction and loss of life it will cause. It will be held accountable for its actions,” the statement said.
The U.S. and EU are likely to coordinate closely on economic sanctions against Russia, while Biden will seek to have NATO countries work together on the defensive response. Several NATO members border Russia and Ukraine.
Newsweek has asked the Department of Defense for comment.