As Joe Biden Talks Up Ukraine War, Russia Keeps Europe Guessing

President Joe Biden's call for American citizens to leave Ukraine emphasized U.S. concern that Russia may be about to invade its neighbor, as Moscow continued to exert pressure with its military buildup and control over energy supplies to Europe.

In an interview with NBC News, Biden warned that "things could go crazy quickly" in the region" as he said "we're dealing with one of the largest armies in the world."

Amid the buildup of more than 100,000 troops by Russia's border with Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has insisted he doesn't want war. However, Russia is set to kick off large-scale naval drills in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Also, new satellite images appear to reveal new large deployments of troops and equipment in Crimea, as well as Kursk in western Russia and Belarus.

European energy prices are likely to stay high following a decision to reverse the flow of gas through a Russian pipeline into the continent.

Biden told NBC that if Putin is "foolish enough" to invade Ukraine then he would be "smart enough" not to do anything "that would negatively impact on American citizens."

The White House has approved a plan for the nearly 2,000 U.S. troops in Poland to help Americans who may try to flee Ukraine if Russia invades, CNN reported.

Foreign Policy Institute fellow Rob Lee told The Moscow Times that from this week, the Russian military "has all the military capabilities to actually conduct a large-scale invasion."

Samuel Charap, a Russian security analyst at the U.S. RAND Corporation, tweeted that there was no need for Russia's latest buildup "unless they're creating the option for something qualitatively bigger than anything we've seen."

It comes as Western countries have accused Moscow of withholding gas to increase prices and act as leverage to get the Nord Stream 2 pipeline approved. The pipeline could be at the center of a sanctions threat on Russia if Putin ordered an invasion.

The flow of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline was reversed on December 21, which sent gas prices soaring. Data on Friday showed that there was no immediate change to the policy, Reuters reported, citing German network operator Gascade.

Russian state-owned gas giant Gazprom, which can book pipeline capacity at daily auctions, hasn't ordered any transit capacity for February, RIA Novosti and Reuters reported.

Europe's Gas Supply

It also didn't book capacity for the second and third quarters of the year at a quarterly auction on Monday, raising the prospect that the pressure on prices will remain, complicating how the West could sanction Russia over Ukraine.

Rystad Energy warned on Friday that an escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine could put at risk around 30 percent of western Europe's gas demand, highlighting how a conflict would affect the whole continent.

Biden said if there were an invasion of Ukraine he would "bring an end" to Nord Stream 2, the pipeline between Russia and Germany. Putin wants a green light from Berlin and Brussels.

"European leaders have made it pretty clear that Putin is not doing anything to help European gas prices," said Timothy Ash, emerging markets senior sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management. "He is not proving to be a particularly reliable partner."

"Europe has got a problem; Putin has the ability to resolve it and he is not doing anything to resolve it and obviously the European energy crisis plays to his advantage," he told Newsweek.

Joe Biden and Ukrainian soldier
A soldier in the 25th Airborne Brigade of the Ukrainian army is pictured on February 8, 2022, in Avdiyivka, Ukraine. President Joe Biden (left) has warned Americans to leave Ukraine as the threat of a conflict with Russia grows. Getty