The Biden administration appears to be in the midst of a diplomatic retreat, struggling to use the word “invasion” to describe Russia’s entry into parts of Ukraine on Monday.
Biden administration officials largely avoided calling Russia’s entry into the Luhansk and Donetsk regions an “invasion” Monday, with one senior official saying that “Russian troops moving into Donbas would not itself be a new step” and that Russia “has had forces in the Donbas for the past eight years.”
But the administration’s moves Monday to sidestep labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion into parts of Ukraine an “invasion” drew criticism from other political leaders, who fear the administration is tip-toeing around the possibility of stoking any bigger flames.
“As we’ve said for months, setting the trigger for meaningful sanctions to Russian tanks rolling across Ukraine’s border was a dangerous mistake,” Republican Texas Rep. Michael McCaul and Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers said in a joint statement Monday. “Secretary Blinken committed to a ‘swift and firm response’ by the United States and its allies if Putin recognized Russian-backed separatist republics in Donbas. We must immediately impose real costs for this blatant act of aggression and flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Now is not the time for symbolic pinpricks that will serve only to embolden Putin and endanger our friends in Ukraine,” the statement continued. “Now is the time for President Biden to impose sanctions that strike at the heart of the Russian economy, and permanently end Nord Stream 2 once and for all, as he promised the world he would do.”
Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney called for the administration and our allies to “impose [a] full set of crippling sanctions now” as “Russia has invaded Ukraine.”
Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Biden Administration and our allies must impose full set of crippling sanctions now.
— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) February 21, 2022
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Putin’s decision to enter parts of Ukraine “is both a violation of the Minsk Agreement and a declaration of war against the people of Ukraine.”
“His decision should immediately be met with forceful sanctions to destroy the ruble and crush the Russian oil and gas sector.”
But it wasn’t just Republicans calling on the Biden administration to respond more severely. (RELATED: Putin Claims Ukraine Was ‘Completely Created’ By Russia, Blasts Communists For ‘Giving’ It ‘Away’)
Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said in a statement Monday “if any additional Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions.”
“There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act,” he added.
Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said the “time for taking action to impose significant costs on President Putin and the Kremlin starts now.” Coons said Putin broken the Minsk Agreement and violated international law.
Following widespread backlash, however, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said “an invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway,” NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Kristen Welker reported Tuesday.
The Biden administration announced Monday an executive order that “will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.”
President Joe Biden is expected to announce additional sanctions Tuesday, but they still won’t be “the swift and severe economic measures we’ve been preparing in coordination with allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” a senior administration official said Monday. The official refused to specify what would be considered a “further invasion” after reporters pressed about it.
With the possibility of Russian troops moving further into Ukraine, the U.S. State Department ordered its personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to evacuate to Poland Monday night.
“For security reasons, Department of State personnel currently in Lviv will spend the night in Poland,” the State Department said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.