Biden is skeptical Russia is scaling back operations in Kyiv

Mar 29, 2022, 2:19 AM | Updated: Mar 30, 2022, 2:59 am
President Joe Biden listens as Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks during a meeting i...

President Joe Biden listens as Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he wasn’t yet convinced that Russia’s announcement that it would scale back military operations near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv will lead to a fundamental shift in the war.

Biden, during an appearance with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong following bilateral talks at the White House, said he was waiting to see what Russia offers in ongoing talks with Ukraine and how Moscow readjusts its troop presence.

U.S. and Western officials have expressed skepticism about Russia’s announcement earlier on Tuesday that it would dial back operations in an effort to increase trust in ongoing talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials in Turkey.

“We’ll see,” Biden said. “I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are.”

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield later expressed an even greater skepticism, saying the administration views any movement of Russian forces as a “redeployment and not a withdrawal” and “no one should be fooled by Russia’s announcement.”

“The world should be prepared for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” Bedingfield said. “Everyone should expect that we’re going to continue to see attacks across Ukraine.”

Biden expressed his caution about the latest development after meeting with Lee for talks in which he sought to assure Singapore and other Pacific allies that his administration remains focused on the Indo-Pacific region even as they deal with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden at the start of an Oval Office meeting with Lee said it was essential that his administration continue to work on bolstering relations with Singapore and other nations in the region. The president has made adjusting U.S. foreign policy to better reflect the rise of America’s most significant military and economic competitor, China, a central focus of his foreign policy, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated the effort.

“Even as we address the crisis in Europe, my administration is strongly supportive of moving rapidly to implement the Indo-Pacific strategy,” said Biden, who also held a call Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss developments in Ukraine.

Biden and Lee discussed the relationship between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, promoting the return of democracy in Myanmar following last year’s military coup and advancing economic growth in the region. Biden said he and Lee consulted on the situation in Ukraine and “freedom of the seas,” an issue of heightened importance in the region as Beijing has made territorial claims over most of the South China Sea.

Lee acknowledged that the timing of the visit underscored Biden’s commitment to the region and that the U.S. would continue to “strengthen its strategic interests in the region.”

“I’m sure you’re completely seized with what’s happening in Europe right now,” Lee said. “But we doubly appreciate the time you’re giving Singapore and to southeast Asian countries generally, especially ASEAN.”

Biden’s national security team has been pleased that Singapore and other Pacific partners — Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea — moved relatively quickly to hit Russia with sanctions following the invasion.

Lee noted that “the war in Ukraine has implications for the Asia Pacific” region, a seeming reference to China’s saber-rattling toward Taiwan. Concerns were growing even before Russia invaded Ukraine about Beijing’s calculations about Taiwan. Biden administration officials have said that Chinese President Xi Jinping has closely watched the U.S. and Western reaction to the Russian invasion.

White House officials have also said that China has offered Moscow military and economic help with its prosecution of the war.

Any conflict over the self-governing island democracy stands to involve the U.S., which is legally obligated to ensure Taiwan can defend itself and treats threats to the island as matters of grave concern.

The Biden administration has repeatedly underscored its “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. Biden also made clear that the U.S. strongly opposes China’s unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

“There are potential flashpoints and contentious issues in our region to which if not managed, well, could escalate to open conflict,” Lee said. “Countries with interests in the region need to pursue all efforts to settle disagreements through peaceful means, so that we can avoid reaching a point of no return.”

Singapore, which typically waits for United Nations backing before implementing sanctions, has imposed restrictions on some exports and a ban on financial institutions from doing business with Russian banks.

Biden thanked Lee for Singapore being a reliable ally, saying the island manages to “punch way above your weight.”

Biden was scheduled to host several national leaders from ASEAN this week, but the summit was postponed. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Singapore in August, announcing agreements involving cybersecurity, climate change and supply chain issues.

The president on Tuesday said he still planned to host the ASEAN summit this spring.


Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed reporting.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
2 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
10 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
10 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
17 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
17 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Biden is skeptical Russia is scaling back operations in Kyiv