By AAMER MADHANI, ELLEN KNICKMEYER, NOMAAN MERCHANT and ALEXANDRA JAFFE
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine as U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russian planning is underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as soon as early 2022. The new intelligence finding estimates that the Russians are planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already deployed near Ukraine’s border. That’s according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the finding. Russia has picked up its demands on Biden to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO.