U.S. still sees an invasion as imminent, dimming hopes for a Biden-Putin summit.
WASHINGTON — Top American officials said on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained imminent amid continued troop movements, propaganda and bellicose language from Moscow, suggesting that prospects are dim for a summit between President Biden and President Vladimir V. Putin in the days ahead.
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said on NBC’s “Today Show” that the president is willing to “go the extra mile on diplomacy,” but added that “every indication we see on the ground right now in terms of the disposition of Russian forces is that they are in fact getting prepared for a major attack on Ukraine.”
Mr. Putin ratcheted up tensions further Mondayl, announcing that he wouldrecognize two breakaway Ukrainian regions as independent states. Russian media also broadcast claims of assaults by Ukrainian forces, charges that Ukrainian military leaders forcefully denied.
American officials have repeatedly predicted that the Russian military would stage false attacks on their own forces as a way of providing Mr. Putin a pretext to go to war.
Mr. Biden agreed “in principle” on Sunday to a proposal by President Emmanuel Macron of France for a summit with Mr. Putin. But numerous White House officials said that such a meeting in the coming days was “notional” at best, and would not happen if Russian forces cross the border into Ukraine.
Two senior administration officials said Monday that there had been no change in that thinking overnight, and that there have been no discussions about the format, timing or location for such a meting.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, also downplayed the immediate prospects for a summit, saying on Monday that “before we meet, especially in such a heated atmosphere, it’s important to understand how these summits and meetings will end.”
For Mr. Biden, the idea of a summit could showcase his willingness to embrace diplomacy rather than war. But a high-profile meeting with Mr. Putin is fraught with risk, especially if Russia subsequently went ahead with an invasion. And there is little that Mr. Biden could offer Mr. Putin without appearing to abandon Ukraine or NATO allies in the process — something that the United States has emphasized that it will not do.
Summit meetings are usually highly choreographed events, with outcomes negotiated in advance. So at best, no meeting between the presidents could happen until Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Mr. Lavrov laid the groundwork during a meeting between them planned for Thursday — if Russia does not begin an invasion before that time.
Senior Western officials said on Monday that Russian forces surrounding Ukraine are moving quickly into positions where they are poised to attack once given an order to do so. The numbers of Russian troops surrounding Ukraine also continues to grow, they said, with some 110 battalion tactical groups of about 1,000 soldiers each.
About two-thirds of those groups are within 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, of the Ukrainian border, and about half of those have been deployed tactically, out of staging areas, ready to attack, the officials said.