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President Joe Biden personally took hold of a White House cleanup effort after his clumsy words about a potential ‘minor incursion’ by Russia into Ukraine – saying a move by any Russian forces would constitute an unacceptable invasion.

Biden also went further – saying the U.S. would also respond to any moves by ‘Little Green Men’ – a reference to Russian military moves that are shrouded, as well as cyber actions and ‘paramilitary tactics.’ 

‘I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding: If any – any – assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,’ Biden said at the White House on Thursday morning – reading from a prepared text at the top of a meeting.

He said an invasion would be met by a ‘severe and coordinated economic response’ that he has discussed in detail with allies ‘as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.’

President Joe Biden on Thursday sought to clean up his own comments on how the U.S. would respond to a Russian invasion or 'minor incursion' in Ukraine. He said an invasion would be met by a 'severe and coordinated economic response'

President Joe Biden on Thursday sought to clean up his own comments on how the U.S. would respond to a Russian invasion or 'minor incursion' in Ukraine. He said an invasion would be met by a 'severe and coordinated economic response'

President Joe Biden on Thursday sought to clean up his own comments on how the U.S. would respond to a Russian invasion or ‘minor incursion’ in Ukraine. He said an invasion would be met by a ‘severe and coordinated economic response’

‘Let there be no doubt at all: If Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price,’ Biden said.

Biden spoke at length about other scenarios that might fall short of a massive military invasion. While Russia has more than 100,000 troops amassed near the border, it has long relied on other less overt tactics to impose influence.

‘Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression and paramilitary tactics – so called gray zone attacks, and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms,’ Biden said. ‘Remember when they moved into the Donbass [region] with the Little Green Men? They were dealing with those who were Russian sympathizers and Russia said: “Nobody in there.” Well, that includes Little Green Men and uniforms as well as cyber attack,’ Biden said.

‘We have to be ready to respond to these as well and decisive and united way with a range of tools at our disposal.’

Biden also addressed comments by Ukraine’s foreign minister – choosing to address his statement of confidence rather than his pushback on his own ‘minor incursion’ remark. 

The ‘Ukrainian foreign minister said this morning that he’s confident of our support and resolve, and he has a right to be,’ Biden said.

Biden’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government rebuked his comments about how the U.S. would respond to a ‘minor incursion’ by Russia – writing that there ‘are no minor incursions.’

Zelensky tweeted about Biden’s words Thursday, without naming the powerful ally who has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his threats toward Ukraine – instead referencing ‘great powers.’

‘We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power,’ he wrote, appending the Ukrainian flag. 

His pushback came as Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke to the Wall Street Journal hours after Biden’s comments about his country – in a signal of concern about how the president’s words might be interpreted in Moscow. 

The administration has spent weeks signaling that Russia would get hit by massive economic sanctions if Putin chose to invade its neighbor again, following the 2014 annexation of Crimea. 

‘Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,’ said Kuleba.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba commented publicly in response to President Joe Biden's words about how the U.S. would respond to a 'minor incursion' in his country. 'We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations'

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba commented publicly in response to President Joe Biden's words about how the U.S. would respond to a 'minor incursion' in his country. 'We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations'

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba commented publicly in response to President Joe Biden’s words about how the U.S. would respond to a ‘minor incursion’ in his country. ‘We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted about 'minor incursions' in response

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted about 'minor incursions' in response

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted about ‘minor incursions’ in response

‘We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact,’ he added.

He also said his government still believed Biden was committed to the country. ‘We in Ukraine have no doubt that President Biden is committed to Ukraine,’ he said. 

Zelensky and the foreign minister’s public comments came hours after an unidentified Ukrainian official said Biden’s comments gave a ‘green light’ to Putin. The official made the remark to CNN just minutes after Biden’s comments.

''We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations.,' said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R), seen here with Secretary of State Antony Blinken

''We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations.,' said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R), seen here with Secretary of State Antony Blinken

”We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations.,’ said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R), seen here with Secretary of State Antony Blinken

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows battle group deployments at the Pogonovo training area in Voronezh, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows battle group deployments at the Pogonovo training area in Voronezh, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows battle group deployments at the Pogonovo training area in Voronezh, Russia, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

A service member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stands next to a BM-21 "Grad" multiple rocket launcher during tactical military exercises at a shooting range in the Kherson region, Ukraine, January 19, 2022

A service member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stands next to a BM-21 "Grad" multiple rocket launcher during tactical military exercises at a shooting range in the Kherson region, Ukraine, January 19, 2022

A service member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stands next to a BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launcher during tactical military exercises at a shooting range in the Kherson region, Ukraine, January 19, 2022

Biden had said it would be a ‘disaster’ for Russia if it invaded Ukraine, but also said: ‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ Biden said at a White House press conference where Russia came up repeatedly.

That comment prompted cleanup from the White House Wednesday night, a task Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris carried forward in Thursday morning TV interviews.   

Psaki told Fox News in an interview Thursday: ‘Let me be very clear what the president has conveyed directly to president Putin. If there is any movement of military troops across the border into Ukraine, if they go into Ukraine and invade there is an invasion and severe economic consequences,’ she said.  

She said US is prepared for ‘a range of tactics the Russians use, whether it’s the little green men or cyberattacks’ – a possible reference to subversive tactics. The comment followed the emergence of internet images of armed men inside Ukraine who resembled members of the Russian military. Putin has insisted they are in fact Ukrainian ‘self-defense groups.’

‘We’ll be prepared to respond to that as well. So we’re prepared for a range of tactics they may use. If they move their military in Ukraine we’ll be responding,’ said Psaki. 

Harris was at times defensive in her own comments. At one point Harris snapped at NBC Today anchor Savannah Guthrie who said the White House’s messaging was ‘less than clear’ on the matter.

‘I’m being clear with you right now,’ Harris said over Guthrie. ‘And so if you’re interested, I’ll continue to be clear. Which is we’ve had direct conversations through various levels of diplomacy — with Putin, with Russia and most importantly with our allies and partners.

‘We are clear and have been clear for quite some time, that our first approach and priority, and preference, is that these issues can be resolved diplomatically. We also have been clear, and continue to be clear, that if Russian takes aggressive action, it will be met with severe cost.’

President Joe Biden was asked about the tense situation in Eastern Europe during a lengthy press conference on Wednesday, where he promised Russia would be ‘held accountable if it invades.’

Harris embarked on a slew of morning news interviews as part of the White House's effort to clean up Biden's comments

Harris embarked on a slew of morning news interviews as part of the White House's effort to clean up Biden's comments

Harris embarked on a slew of morning news interviews as part of the White House’s effort to clean up Biden’s comments

But then he continued: ‘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 what to not do, et cetera. But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.’

The administration immediately launched into damage control mode, with Psaki putting out a statement that any ‘renewed invasion’ would be met with ‘a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.’ 

But Biden’s remarks already sent shockwaves through the international community.

Officials in Kyiv reacted to Biden’s words ‘with alarm,’ NBC reported.

And in another television interview, Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos also confronted Harris on the effect it had on the United States’ Eastern allies. 

Biden appeared to allow Russia wiggle room for a 'minor incursion' into Ukraine during his press conference

Biden appeared to allow Russia wiggle room for a 'minor incursion' into Ukraine during his press conference

Some fear it gave Putin the green light to take aggressive steps against Ukraine

Some fear it gave Putin the green light to take aggressive steps against Ukraine

Biden said at his press conference yesterday that it’s ‘one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera. But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia’

An adviser to Ukraine’s president told ABC on Thursday that Biden’s comment was met with ‘shock and dismay’ in Kyiv.

‘The president has been very clear that if Russia takes aggressive action, it will be met with serious, severe, and a unified response and consequences,’ Harris said.

‘And that position that we have taken is grounded in a number of values that we hold dear, including the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity — in this case of Ukraine — and we have not wavered from that perspective.’

She didn’t elaborate when asked whether a Russian invasion would be met with sanctions or even full scale military action.

‘We will interpret any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and Vladimir Putin as an aggressive action and it will be met with costs, severe and certain,’ Harris said. 

Biden said Wednesday he wasn’t certain of Putin’s intentions – saying it may be based on ‘which side of the bed he gets up on in the morning as to exactly what he’s going to do.’

‘I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,’ Biden said, saying that Russia already has intelligence agents operating inside the country.  

He also speculated on the issues Putin is weighing, amid the collapse of the old Soviet empire.

‘He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West, ‘Biden said.

He said he was ‘very concerned’ about the situation, which he said could ‘very easily get out of hand.’ He called it one of the ‘most consequential’ situations since World War II ‘in terms of war and peace.’

‘I think he still does not want a full-blown war,’ Biden said, warning of the short and long-term consequences it would face. 

Biden outlined part of what he said Putin would face in some detail – suggesting that Russia would be black listed and unable to deal in dollars on a global system of  interbank electronic transactions – which could take a severe bite out of its economy.    

President Joe Biden said said Russia would pay a 'dear price' through sanctions if it invades Ukraine

President Joe Biden said said Russia would pay a 'dear price' through sanctions if it invades Ukraine

President Joe Biden said said Russia would pay a ‘dear price’ through sanctions if it invades Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hit back with a statement saying there 'are no minor incursions'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hit back with a statement saying there 'are no minor incursions'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hit back with a statement saying there ‘are no minor incursions’

‘We find ourselves in a position where … 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,’ he said.

The president said Russia would pay a ‘dear price’ through sanctions if it acts, after assembling more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. But he also spelled an area for possible talks on one of Russia’s demands – and even provided a reassurance on the issue of NATO expansion. 

‘He has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves,’ Biden said of the economic response the U.S. would impose should Russia once again its neighbor, after seizing Crimea in 2014. 

‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ he said.

He said it would be a ‘disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine.’ 

‘But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy,’ the president said.

Source: Daily Mail

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