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Biden Clarifies Comments About a Potential Russian Invasion of Ukraine

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President Joe Biden is vowing that there will be a “severe and coordinated” economic response if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine.

“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 told reporters on Thursday.

He continued, “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. Let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.”

However, Biden said that a military invasion of Ukraine is “not the only scenario we need to be prepared for.” He noted that Russia has used “paramilitary tactics, so-called ‘grey-zone attacks,’ and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms…as well as cyber-attacks” to “carry out aggression.”

“We have to be ready to respond to these as well in a decisive and united way with a range of tools at our disposal,” Biden added.

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Biden’s comments on Thursday come after he appeared to suggest that Russia, which has roughly 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border, would face a lesser penalty if it carried out a “minor incursion” of the European nation.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Biden said, “I think what you’re going to 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 to do.”

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As CNN notes, Biden later said during the press conference that he “drew the line at ‘Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters.'”

The president also said he believes Putin will decide to “move in” to Ukraine.

Critics of Biden claimed those comments gave Putin the green light to invade Ukraine.

Later on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, “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,” she added.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to respond to Biden’s comments in a tweet on Thursday, “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.”

A senior administration official told CNN that if Russia tried to take a “small portion or a large portion” of Ukraine’s territory, the U.S. would hit Russia with a stiff penalty.

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