White House backtracks on Biden’s ‘minor incursion’ remark

Moscow faces US-led retaliation over any “cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics” targeting Ukraine

Russia will face dire consequences not only in the case of an actual invasion of Ukraine, but also for actions that stop short of military action, the White House said on Wednesday. 

The threat came in a statement released less than an hour after President Joe Biden’s media conference, in which he seemed to suggest that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine would not necessitate a severe response from Washington and its allies.

“It's one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do,” the US president told reporters. “But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.”

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President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks during a news conference in the White House in Washington, DC, Wednesday, January, 19, 2022.
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The statement, from press secretary Jen Psaki, appears to disavow Biden's remark, which many of his critics called an invitation to Russia to attack Ukraine.

Biden “knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics,” Psaki said. “And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”

Earlier, the Financial Times reported that there were disagreements between West European nations over what would trigger the sanctions that they pledged to impose against Russia should it attack Ukraine. Some reportedly insisted that only a full-scale invasion would merit a tough response.

Russia denies having any intention to attack Ukraine. According to Moscow, military action there is only possible if Kiev and its Western backers provoke it somehow, including by renewing violence against rebels in the east of the country.

The West started hyping up the claim that Russian troop movement inside the country signaled an invasion of Ukraine several months ago. Washington accused Russia of amassing over 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border. Moscow says all its maneuvers are regular training exercises, which it has every right to conduct inside its own territory.

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