Administration Officials Forced To Clean Up Biden’s Ukraine Remarks

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Two administration officials almost immediately issued responses to comments in which President Joe Biden appeared to suggest that the U.S. and NATO allies would not respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, depending on the circumstances.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops along its eastern border with Ukraine in recent months, and a Jan. 14 cyber-attack left Ukraine’s government websites temporarily defaced. Biden has declared sending American troops to Ukraine “not on the table,” and has expressed a desire to limit U.S. involvement in the conflict to economic sanctions.

During his Wednesday press conference, Biden added that an American response to Russia will “depend on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we have to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera, but if they do what they are capable of doing with the forces massed on the border, it will be a disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine.”

National Security Counsel spokeswoman Emily Horne almost immediately issued a statement on Twitter in a follow-up to Biden’s comments.

Biden “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,” she said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also issued a statement, saying that Biden affirmed that “acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”

“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 cyber-attacks and paramilitary tactics,” she said.

The remarks sparked instant backlash from critics in Congress and the media. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Speak Loudly And Carry A Small Stick’: Republicans Blast Biden’s Response To Putin’s Escalation In Ukraine)

“By greenlighting ‘minor incursions,’ President Biden invites major incursions in Ukraine, Taiwan, and around the world. He emboldens our adversaries, causes our allies to doubt our commitments, and risks the defining achievement of American power: the security and stability of Europe,” Republican Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher said in a statement.

The reason why Biden’s remarks on a ‘minor incursion’ are so dangerous is because Russia used hybrid warfare in their last invasion of Ukraine. They denied for months their forces were there. If that is now cost free, then we should expect a repeat of 2014,” national security and foreign policy columnist Eli Lake added.