In remarks at the Business Roundtable's CEO quarterly meeting, President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's "back is against the wall," warning that Russia could use cyberattacks and chemical weapons in Ukraine as the war continues.
The president praised the heads of American companies for helping the U.S. lead on the global stage in terms of levying punishments on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
"I’m pleased to see American companies stepping up and doing their part, and what you're doing in terms of donating to Ukraine and winding down your operations without anybody requesting it," Biden said. "I want to make that clear: You're on your own on winding down operations in Russia. Not all, but many have. Not only you, but around the world."
"The one thing I'm confident, knowing Putin fairly well – as well as, I guess, another leader could know one another – is that he was counting on being able to split NATO," Biden continued. "He never thought NATO would stay resolved, stay totally, thoroughly united. And I can assure you: NATO has never been stronger or more united in its entire history than it is today, in large part because of Vladimir Putin."
Biden said that he was "grateful" to the companies that stood up to punish Russia for its incursion.
"You did a hell of a lot to help us impose sanctions and incur costs, real costs, on the Russian economy, and we’re seeing now that it mattered," the president said. "It was really important what you all did."
Biden said that his administration's response in Ukraine is "working," touting the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people and the equipment provided by the United States.
The president confirmed Monday that Russia has launched hypersonic missiles in Ukraine.
"And, if you notice, they've just launched a hypersonic missile, because it's the only thing that they can get through with absolute certainty," he said. "As you all know, it's a consequential weapon, the same warhead on it as any other launched missile. It doesn’t make that much difference, except it's almost impossible to stop it. There's a reason they're using it."
"And now Putin’s back is against the wall. He wasn’t anticipating the extent or the strength of our unity," Biden continued, warning: "And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ."
"We’ve seen it before," the president said. "He's run a lot of false-flag operations. Whenever he starts talking about something he thinks NATO, Ukraine, or the United States is about to do, it means he's getting ready to do it. Not a joke."
Biden warned that with Putin facing this much pressure, Russia could use chemical weapons or cyberattacks.
"His back is against the wall," Biden said, mentioning roundly debunked false claims Russia is making about U.S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine. "Now he's talking about new false flags he's setting up, including he's asserting that, we, in America, have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe. Simply not true, I guarantee you."
"They're also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine," Biden said. "That’s a clear sign he is considering using both of those. He's already used chemical weapons in the past, and we should be careful of what's about to come. He knows there'll be severe consequences because of the united NATO front, but the point is: It's real."
Russia responded to Biden's claims about biological and chemical weapons on Tuesday, denying that they have plans to use either.
"We have neither of these," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian state media on Tuesday. "What the Americans are saying are malicious insinuations."
"We've heard them all the time and we've given exhaustive answers to them for a long time," Ryabkov continued. "The problem is the U.S. has no habit of listening to anyone but itself."
"And what I want to mention very much, very quickly with you all is: One of the tools he’s most likely to use, in my view, in our view, is cyber, cyberattacks," Biden said. "They have a very sophisticated cyber capability."
The White House earlier Monday warned private companies to prepare for potential Russian cyberattacks, citing “evolving intelligence” the country is “exploring options” and reiterating warnings that the Kremlin could retaliate for U.S. sanctions by launching a cyber incident.
A top security official said the U.S. has seen evidence of Russian activity that signals preparation for a cyberattack, things that could include scanning websites and hunting for vulnerable systems.
The biggest worry, said Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger, is an attack on critical infrastructure, such as power grids, water systems or hospitals.
“Lock your digital doors. Make it harder for attackers. Make them do more work,” Neuberger said in the White House briefing room, pointing to a White House fact sheet outlining steps that private companies should take.
The suggested actions include implementing multi-factor authentication, backing up data, running cybersecurity drills, changing passwords and educating employees.
Neuberger also said the average American should take similar steps to protect their own accounts and data.
"Today my administration has issued renewed warnings that, based on evolving intelligence, Russia may be planning a cyberattack against us," Biden said Monday. "And as I've said, the magnitude of Russia's cyber capacity is fairly consequential, and it's coming."
"Let me be absolutely clear about something: It's not just in your interests that are at stake with their potential use of cybersecurity ... the national interest is at stake," the president urged, calling it a "patriotic obligation" to shore up cybersecurity.
Biden pledged that his administration will aid private companies in any way to help them bolster their cyber defenses, especially for companies that provide "critical services that Americans rely on, from power to clean water."
"For example, banks can turn on cybersecurity by default for every customer so America's financial data is safe," Biden said. "And we're prepared to help you, as I said, with any tools and expertise we possess if you're ready to do that. But it's your decision as to the steps you'll take and your responsibility to take them, not ours."
Spectrum News' Austin Landis contributed to this report.