During his press conference on Wednesday, President Joe Biden was asked about how the US intends to handle any Russian invasion of Ukraine. In response to his answer, it was reported that officials in Kyiv were "shocked" and "stunned" by his statements, and that his remarks were essentially a "green light" to Vladimir Putin.
"I think what you're gonna 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 do, etc," Biden said.
CNN reported that a Ukrainian official revealed to Matthew Chance that he is "shocked that the US President Biden would distinguish between incursion and invasion."
Biden spoke about sanctions that would be felt by Russia in the event of an invasion, threatening to prevent their banks from dealing in US dollars, among other things.
The official told Chance that they were concerned that a "minor incursion" would not trigger these kinds of extreme sanctions.
"This gives the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure," the official from Kyiv said, going on to say that this sort of nuance between types of invasions was not something they had expected or heard from the administration previously.
"Kyiv is stunned," the official said.
"If there is something that is where there's Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, etc." Biden told reporters, "I think that changes everything."
"But it depends on what he does, to what extent we'll get total unity on the NATO front," Biden went on.
"It's very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. That's what I'm spending a lot of time doing, and there are differences. There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens," Biden said additionally.
Biden's National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne spoke up on Twitter to clarify Biden's statements, saying that the President "was referring to the difference between military and non-military/para-military/cyber action by the Russians. Such actions would be met by a reciprocal response, in coordination with Allies and partners."
"The cost of going into Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for the Russians— they'll be able to prevail over time but it's going to be heavy," Biden said. "It's going to be real. It's going to be consequential. Putin has a stark choice. Either de-escalation or diplomacy. Confrontation and consequences."
"This is not all just a cake walk for Russia," Biden continued. "Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority. And as it relates to Ukraine, they'll pay a stiff price immediately, near term, medium term and long term if they do it."
Biden said that he thought Putin would "test the west," as well as "the United States and NATO as significantly as he can," but that Putin would "pay a serious and dear price for it."
"He doesn't think now will cost him what it's going to cost him," he said. "And I think he'll regret having done it." Biden said, essentially, that the ball is in Putin's court.
When asked if the US would remove nuclear weapons from Europe, he said absolutely not, and that troops would not be removed either.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sought to clarify the statements, saying:
"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. 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."
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