ADIIVKA, Ukraine — Washington is raising the rhetoric about the buildup of Russian forces near Ukraine's border, but the Ukrainian president is projecting calm.
That sense of calm is reflected in the opinions of many in Ukraine's east, which is as likely as any place to see fighting first, although Russia has denied any plans to invade.
A senior U.S. administration official says the White House believes spotlighting their concerns will dissuade the Kremlin from an invasion.
In recent days, senior U.S. officials have spoken to media outlets to issue grim warnings that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could result in between 25,000 to 50,000 civilian deaths and a refugee crisis that could span Europe. Biden himself has encouraged essential American diplomats to leave Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is balancing worries about an invasion with fears that alarm-ringing could wreck Ukraine's economy with hardly a shot fired.
On Tuesday, he said his people would not respond to provocations.
"We are defending our country and are on our own territory. Our patience can have an impact on provocations, when we don't respond to provocations but behave with great dignity," Zelenskyy said Tuesday in an appearance with French President Emmanuel Macron, according to The Associated Press.
Though Russia denies it's planning an invasion of Ukraine, it has amassed about 100,000 troops at the border and has laid out a series of demands it says will improve security in Europe. Those demands include a promise that NATO will not extend an invitation to Ukraine and guaranteeing that the alliance will remove troops from Eastern Europe.
But the U.S. and the Western alliance have firmly rejected any concessions on Moscow's suggestions. Many of Russia's demands are nonstarters for NATO, creating a stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
Last week, the Pentagon announced it was sending 3,000 U.S. troops toward Eastern Europe. About 2,000 of those military members will be deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland and Germany. Another 1,000 troops based in Germany will be sent to Romania.
"The current situation demands that we reinforce Eastern flank," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said last Wednesday.
In the past, Putin has expressed frustration with the Soviet breakup of some countries, like Belarus and Ukraine. According to an Associated Press analysis, Putin sees those countries as part of a historic Russian linguistic and Orthodox motherland.