BRUSSELS (AP) — President Joe Biden and Western allies pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid on Thursday in response to Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine, but their offers fell short of the more robust military assistance that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded for in a pair of live-video appearances.
Biden also announced the U.S. would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees — though he said many probably prefer to stay closer to home — and provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.
The Western leaders spent Thursday crafting next steps to counter Russia’s month-old invasion — and huddling over how they might respond should Putin deploy chemical, biological or even a nuclear weapon. They met in a trio of emergency summits that had them shuttling across Brussels for back-to-back-to-back meetings of NATO, the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the 27-member European Council.
Biden, in an early evening news conference after the meetings, warned that a chemical attack by Russia “would trigger a response in kind.”
“You’re asking whether NATO would cross. We’d make that decision at the time,” Biden said.
However, a White House official said later that did not imply any shift in the U.S. position against direct military action in Ukraine. Biden and NATO allies have stressed that the U.S. and NATO would not put troops on the ground in Ukraine.
The official was not authorized to comment publicly by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.
Zelenskyy, while thankful for the newly promised help, made clear to the Western allies he needed far more than they’re currently willing to give.
“One percent of all your planes, one percent of all your tanks,” Zelenskyy asked members of the NATO alliance. “We can’t just buy those. When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”
Biden said more aid was on its way. But the Western leaders were treading carefully so as not to further escalate the conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine.
“NATO has made a choice to support Ukraine in this war without going to war with Russia,” said French President Emmanuel Macron. “Therefore we have decided to intensify our ongoing work to prevent any escalation and to get organized in case there is an escalation.”
Poland and other eastern flank NATO countries are seeking clarity on how the U.S. and European nations can assist in dealing with their growing concerns about Russian aggression as well as the refugee crisis. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine in recent weeks, including more than 2 million to Poland.