President Joe Biden held a press conference one year into his presidency this Wednesday, Jan. 19, where he answered direct questions from journalists from various media outlets. While discussing a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden generated confusion with his remarks that had to be immediately clarified by the White House.
Responding on what his administration will do if the Russian military invades Ukraine, Biden said:
“It depends on what he does as to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front. I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do.”
It was the part about ‘a minor incursion’ potentially carrying a minor punishment that triggered criticism, as by all means possible the U.S. has tried to get Russia to desist from its intention to invade Ukraine, although the Kremlin has repeatedly denied such accusations.
The topic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the support of the United States and other allies in the face of armed conflict has long been a hot topic.
While the West claims that Russia is ready to take over Ukraine, having massed more than 100,000 troops and armaments on the border of the Donbass region, Russia says that the movement of its army is a response to the advance of NATO troops, although Putin has admitted that for him Ukraine is part of Russia that was lost when the Soviet Union was dissolved.
Reaction on social media
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations used his Twitter account to criticize what he observed as a ‘weakness’ in the president’s comments.
“Don’t understand the logic of @POTUS suggesting he believes Russians will move into Ukraine & that if they do it in a relatively small way there would be less of a price to pay. That may well be true, but both statements weaken deterrence & weaken prospects for a diplomatic outcome.”
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla) was more blunt stating, “This administration must be clear that ANY Putin move into Ukraine is unacceptable, and we should do more to impose costs on him.”
Due to the reaction on social media, White House press secretary Jen Psaki released a statement, according to The Hill:
“President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.”
Although he generated confusion with his response, Biden assured that the package of sanctions he has in mind to impose on the Russian government are of such a magnitude that they will actually cause damage to Russia that it will have to think twice before invading Ukraine.
“He has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves… there will be severe economic consequences,” Biden said. “For example, anything that involves dollar denominations—if they invade, they’re going to pay. Their banks will not be able to deal in dollars. So there’s a lot that’s going to happen.”
However, Germany, NATO’s most powerful member has been rather pleasing towards Russia and avoided sending weapons as Britain did, as well as assuring that sanctions such as those mentioned by Joe Biden, are out of the question.
This Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet in Moscow with Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov with the goal of insisting on a diplomatic way out and avoiding armed conflict.
Russian state media reports continue to maintain the position that Russia’s ‘possible invasion’ of Ukraine is all a manipulation by the West.