South Lawn

10:59 A.M. EST
 
THE PRESIDENT:  I have some good news this morning: That Pfizer lab report came back saying that the expectation is that the existing vaccines protect against Omicron.  But if you get the booster, you’re really in good shape.  And so that’s very encouraging.  That’s the lab report.  That’s the lab report.  There’s more studies going on.  But that’s very, very encouraging.
 
Q    What did you achieve by talking with Putin yesterday? 
 
THE PRESIDENT:  He asked about you a lot.  We talked about you a lot.
 
Q    Are you confident that Vladimir —
 
Q    How are you going to get Manchin on the —
 
Q    — Putin got the message?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  No — no, wait.  Hang on. 
 
Q    Can you answer, sir, please?
 
    THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I will.
 
Q    Joe Manchin says —
 
Q    Mr. President, will you have him in person —
 
Q    Can you answer my question first?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Shh.  Shh.  Let me —
 
In the meeting with Putin, I was very straightforward.  There were no minced words. 
 
It was polite, but I made it very clear: If, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences — severe consequences — and economic consequences like none he’s ever seen or ever have been seen, in terms of being imposed.
 
He knows.  His immediate response was he understood that.  And I indicated that I knew he would respond.  But beyond that, if, in fact, we would probably also be required to reinforce our — our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly those on the eastern front. 
 
In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well.
 
The good news is — the good news — the positive news is that, thus far, our teams have been in constant contact.  We hope by Friday we’re going to be able to say and announce to you that we’re having meetings at a higher level, not just with us but with at least four of our major NATO Allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia’s concerns relative to NATO writ large and whether or not we can work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front.
 
Q    Can we rule out boots on the ground, sir — putting U.S. troops on the ground?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  In terms of in Ukraine?
 
Q    Senator Tim Kaine, Democrats are talking about could U.S. troops be needed on the ground in or around Ukraine to stop an invasion.  Will you rule that out, or is that on the table?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  That is not on the table.  What is not — they are not —
 
We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO Allies, if they were to attack under Article Five.  It’s a sacred obligation.
 
That obligation does not extend to NATO — I mean, to Ukraine.  But it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries are willing to do as well.
 
But the idea the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia from invading Ukraine is not on — in the cards right now.  But what will happen is: There will be severe consequences that will have —
 
Q    Sir, you’ve known Vladimir Putin for years.  Are you confident that he got the message and knows this is different?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  I am absolutely confident he got the message.
 
Thank you.
 
11:01 A.M. EST

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