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Why U.S. strategy includes raising public alarms on Russia

Vice President Harris attends a meeting with Baltic leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Friday. Harris is meeting with European leaders and discussing the Russia-Ukraine crisis through the weekend.
Andrew Harnik
Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Vice President Harris attends a meeting with Baltic leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Friday. Harris is meeting with European leaders and discussing the Russia-Ukraine crisis through the weekend.

The U.S. is engaging in high-stakes diplomacy as it insists Russia is preparing for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia claims it's not, but it has Ukraine surrounded.

An outbreak of shelling in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, the worst since a cease-fire was reached two years ago, set off alarms that it could spiral into something bigger.

President Biden and other key members of the administration are being very vocal about the threat, betting that the tactic is serving to deter — or at least delay — any action by Russia.

On Thursday, Biden called the chances for invasion "very high," adding, "My sense is that it will happen in the next several days."

How the U.S. hopes to prevent war

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price defended the administration's strategy of publicly sharing intelligence in an interview on NPR's Morning Edition on Friday.

"Our goal in all of this is to prevent a war. That's why we're pulling every conceivable lever at our disposal and ensuring that we're leaving nothing on the field in this diplomatic effort," he said.

Price added that "there's a chance that this strategy could affect Vladimir Putin's decision-making calculus."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield similarly told NPR's All Things Considered on Thursday that while the threat of an invasion remains active, "I'd like to think that our diplomacy, our exposure of this has delayed their planning."

"And we're going to keep leaning in and keep pushing to delay their moving in this direction and hopefully come to the negotiating table," Thomas-Greenfield said.

Allies meet in Germany to discuss the crisis

On the diplomacy front, Vice President Harris is meeting with European allies on the crisis in Munich this weekend, and Biden is holding a call with trans-Atlantic leaders about Russia's troop building on Friday.

Ahead of a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Harris said that NATO allies have strengthened their relationship during the past several months and that she was at the Munich Security Conference to help ensure that leaders "stay in close contact" as "the hours and days progress" in the conflict.

"We remain, of course, open to and desirous of diplomacy as it relates to the dialogue and the discussions we have had with Russia," Harris said. "But we are also committed — if Russia takes aggressive action — to ensure there will be severe consequences in terms of the economic sanctions that we have discussed."

Price insisted that the administration is "not trying to stoke hysteria. What we're doing is trying to enact prudent preparations."

He also noted:

"If Russia changes course and our warnings were for naught, great. If people later want to accuse us of hysteria, say that we were going overboard, we'll accept that, we'll accept that gladly. We're not looking for credit. We're looking to prevent a war."

NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.