Biden says putting U.S. troops on ground in Ukraine is 'not on the table'

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to journalists before walking to Marine One at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S, December 8, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

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WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday putting American troops on the ground in Ukraine to deter a potential Russian invasion was "not on the table" and he hoped to announce a meeting with Russia and other NATO countries by Friday.

Biden said there would be high-level meetings with Russia and at least four major NATO allies to "discuss the future of Russia's concerns relative to NATO writ large" and whether or not accommodations could be worked out as it related to "bringing down the temperature along the eastern front."

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, Biden said he had made it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his nearly two-hour virtual meeting on Tuesday that there would be economic consequences like none before if Russia invades Ukraine. He said he was confident Putin got the message.

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"There were no minced words," Biden said. "I made it very clear: if in fact he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences, economic consequences like none he's ever seen or ever have been seen," he said.

The White House said on Tuesday after Biden's call that the president had not made concessions to Putin, who is concerned about Ukraine potentially joining NATO. The Russian president has demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand farther eastward.

The two men held two hours of virtual talks about Ukraine and other issues on Tuesday amid a low point in U.S.-Russia relations as Russia masses tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's border. The Kremlin has denied having intentions to attack Ukraine and says its troop buildup is defensive in nature. read more

Biden said he made clear the United States would provide defensive capabilities to Ukraine as well.

Biden said the United States had a moral and legal obligation to defend NATO allies if they are attacked, but that obligation did not extend to Ukraine.

"That is not on the table," Biden said when asked if U.S. troops would be used to stop a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"It would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well," Biden said. "But the idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not ... in the cards right now."

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Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sonya Hepinstall

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