Biden Does Not Rule Out Ukrainian Territory Concessions

President Joe Biden says that whether Ukraine cedes any territory to Russia at the resolution of the war between the two countries is a decision best left to Ukrainians.

It’s been more than a month since Russia first invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. The move came after a speech from Russian President Vladimir Putin challenging the legitimacy of Ukrainian statehood and declaring two regions within Ukraine—which was formerly part of the Soviet Union—to be independent and sovereign.

As Russia continues attacks on key Ukrainian cities, including the capital of Kyiv, Biden was asked Thursday following an emergency NATO summit whether he thinks Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will need to cede any Ukrainian territory in order to gain a ceasefire with Russia.

“That is a total judgment based on Ukraine,” Biden said in response before repeating a White House policy slogan: “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

“I don’t believe that they’re going to have to do that, but that’s a judgment—There’s negotiations, discussions I should say, that have taken place and I’ve not been part of, including Ukrainians. And it’s their judgment to make,” the president said.

Zelenskyy, earlier in the week, made calls for direct talks with Putin saying he was prepared to discuss a commitment from Ukraine not to seek NATO membership in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops, and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.

The United States and its Western allies have continued to dial up sanctions against Russia since it first launched its military campaign in Ukraine. The West has also backed Ukraine by sending weapons as well as humanitarian support.

On Thursday, the United States once again added to its list of Russian individuals and entities it intends to block from doing business with the West. It also announced an additional $1.32 billion in aid to Ukraine as well as an energy deal with Europe to try to reduce its dependence on Russian oil.

While top U.S. officials initially referred to the threat of sanctions as a deterrence project when they were announced publicly ahead of the invasion, Biden denied Thursday that sanctions were ever meant to deter Russia and conceded that this latest tranche of sanctions will not likely bring an end to the war.

“I did not say that, in fact, that sanctions would deter [Putin],” Biden said, adding that the purpose of the emergency NATO meeting was to ensure sanctions would be sustained “for the remainder of the entire year.”

When pressed on whether the newest sanctions would cause Putin to alter his course of action in Ukraine, Biden accused the reporter of playing a game before saying: “the answer is no.”

“When we put in place the threat of sanctions and the threat of consequences, we never thought that that would be failproof or that would be 100 percent effective,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on March 14.

Biden added Thursday that he is pushing for Russia to be removed from the G20 international forum. A spokesperson from the Kremlin later responded to Biden’s comments by saying that “nothing terrible would happen” if Russia were removed from the G20.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Ciolino


Nick Ciolino covers the White House.

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