When warning about a pending crisis, don’t pull any punches.
President Joe Biden did not appear to hold back this afternoon when he told the world in a speech from the White House that, “we have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week—in the coming days. We believe that they will target Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people.
“We’re calling out Russia’s plans loudly and repeatedly, not because we want a conflict, but because we’re doing everything in our power to remove any reason that Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine and prevent them from moving.
“Make no mistake: If Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice. The United States and our Allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well.”
Crisis Communication Best Practices
Biden adhered to other crisis communication best practices as shown by the subheads in the following partial transcript of his speech.
Cite The Facts
Over the last few days, we’ve seen reports of a major uptick in violations of the ceasefire by Russian-backed fighters attempting to provoke Ukraine in the Donbas.
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For example, a shelling of a Ukrainian kindergarten yesterday, which Russia has falsely asserted was carried out by Ukraine. We also continue to see more and more disinformation being pushed out by — to the Russian public, including the Russian-backed separatists, claiming that Ukraine is planning to launch a massive offensive attack in the Donbas.
Well, look, there is simply no evidence of these assertions, and it and defies— it defies basic logic to believe the Ukrainians would choose this moment, with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders, to escalate a year-long conflict.
Russia state media also continues to make phony allegations of a genocide taking place in the Donbas and push fabricated claims warning about Ukraine’s attack on Russia without any evidence. That’s just what I’m sure Ukraine is thinking of doing — attacking Russia.
All these are consistent with the playbook the Russians have used before: to set up a false justification to act against Ukraine. This is also in line with the pretext scenarios that the United States and our Allies and partners have been warning about for weeks.
Put Things In Perspective
Throughout these tense moments, the Ukrainian forces have shown great judgment and, I might add, restraint. They’ve refused to allow the Russians to bait them into war.
But the fact remains: Russian troops currently have Ukraine surrounded — from Belarus, along the Russian border with Ukraine, to the Black Sea in the south — and all of its border.
We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people.
Remind People What You’ve Done
This past year, the United States provided a record amount of security assistance to Ukraine to bolster its defensive — $650 million, from Javelin missiles to ammunition.
And we also previously provided $500 million in humanitarian aid and economic support for Ukraine. And earlier this week, we also announced an additional sovereign loan guarantee of up to $1 billion to strengthen Ukraine’s economic resilience.
Explain The Bottom Line
But the bottom line is this: The United States and our Allies and partners will support the Ukrainian people. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions. The West is united and resolved. We’re ready to impose severe sanctions on Russia if it further invades Ukraine.
But I say again: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table.
Russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will bring or diplomacy that will make a future safer for everyone.
Tell What Could Happen Next
Last night, Russia agreed that Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov should meet on Feb- — on February 24th — February 24th in Europe.
But if Russia takes military action before that date, it will be clear that they have slammed the door shut on diplomacy. They will have — they will have chosen war, and they will pay a steep price for doing so — not only from the sanctions that we and our allies will impose on Russia, but the moral outrage that the rest of the world will visit upon them.