U.S. President Joe Biden has inadvertently set off alarm bells by suggesting that Russia will indeed invade Ukraine again.
He suggested during a press conference on Jan. 19 that a U.S. response to a Russian attack on Ukraine will depend on how it occurs, inadvertently suggesting that a Russian military invasion was perhaps a fait accompli. Biden explained that U.S. sanctions would depend on whether an attack would be “a minor incursion” or a more significant invasion.
“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,” said Biden.
He added that
Ukrainian leaders were taken aback by Biden’s unexpected declaration. CNN reported that an unnamed Ukrainian official expressed “shock” at Biden’s remarks and said that his words “give Putin the green light to enter Ukraine.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the nation on TV in the evening to reassure it that there is no need for panic.
The White House quickly responded in an effort to clean up the president’s words. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden was simply trying to make clear that the U.S. and NATO would respond if Russia attacked Ukraine.
“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, Psaki said.
She added: “President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response”
Latest estimates suggest that Russia has 127,000 troops massed at Ukraine’s eastern border, a number that is growing daily. CNN reported that Russia has positioned Iskander rocker complexes at Ukraine’s border and targeted them on Kyiv. The New York Times reported that Russia has sent saboteurs into Ukraine to lay the groundwork for an invasion. Meanwhile, Russia continues to deny that it plans to invade Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent a day in Kyiv where he met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky before flying to meet Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov.
Blinken’s effort comes after U.S. and NATO engaged Russia in several rounds of diplomatic negotiations last week to no avail in response to Putin’s demands that NATO remove military hardware and troops from neighboring countries and provide guarantees that Ukraine will never be offered NATO membership. The Kremlin has indicated that only then would it withdraw its troops. Putin has said that without an agreement, Russia would have to take steps to assure its security.
Days after the last round of talks ended in stalemate, the websites of various Ukrainian ministries were subjected to a cyberattack. Most experts agree that Russia was the source of those attacks.
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