Yesterday, President Joe Biden gave his first solo press conference in nearly two years. One comment in particular caused strong reactions around the world that lead to a full blown clean up effort this morning. In response to a question about Russia’s seemingly inevitable invasion of Ukraine, Biden’s answer made a clear distinction between a “minor incursion” and all out attack. The administration’s handlers have gone all out this morning trying to clean up the international mess.
Biden himself appeared again before reporters in an attempt to clarify his previous remarks. “I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding, any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden told the press. “It will be met with a severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on Thursday morning’s edition of NBC’s “Today” to do damage control. Co-host Savannah Guthrie asked if Biden has given Putin permission to “take a bit out of Ukraine”. Harris replied, “On the subject of Ukraine, I will tell you that the president has been very clear and we as the United States are very clear. If Putin takes aggressive action, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs, period.” She attempted to contextualize Biden’s blunder, stating the administration’s “first approach and priority and preference is that these issues could be resolved diplomatically”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken did his part from a news conference in Berlin with his German counterpart. “We have been very clear throughout if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine that will be met with a swift severe united response from the United States and our allies and partners,” Blinken responded when asked about Biden’s comments. Blinken also criticized Moscow’s portrayal of Ukraine and NATO as threatening Russia, pointing to Moscow’s buildup of troops and history of military action in former Soviet states.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy chimed in this morning, pointedly Tweeting, “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.”