Throughout late December and January, NATO and the United States Secretary of State have been in talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin regarding any possible invasion into the Ukraine. Putin has demanded that the Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO as well as NATO’s European forces limit the number of troops and weapons in its eastern flank. In December, Russian officials said that a failure to meet their demands could “lead to a military response similar to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.
While talks have been ongoing, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has talked with both the Ukrainian officials as well as officials from Moscow. Just this week, Blinken was in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. On Friday, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister.
Currently, at least 100,000 troops are set up along the border of the Ukraine. Blinken’s mission is to deescalate tensions. However, President Joe Biden was asked about tensions between the Ukraine and Russia during an hours-long press conference on Wednesday, and his response may have done more to damage the relationship between the two countries than Blinken’s diplomatic talks may be able to repair.
On Wednesday, President Biden was asked about the possibility of a Russian invasion in the Ukraine. He responded by saying, “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 . . .”
His remarks drew ire from several Americans as well as officials across the globe. Most notably, however, the Ukrainian president, clapped back in a tweet regarding the comments made by Biden on Wednesday. Zelenskyy wrote: “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.”
Since Biden chose to use the phrase “minor incursion,” the tweet appears to be a direct response to comments made by the Commander in Chief during his press conference on Wednesday. During the press conference, reporters asked Biden if the United States and NATO would not respond with sanctions should Russia cause a “minor incursion” into the Ukraine.
Biden replied that there would be severe sanctions regarding Russia and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Germany has already spoke to its disapproval of the opening of the pipeline, and many Americans are upset that Biden agreed to allow for the opening of said pipeline after shutting the Keystone pipeline down on our own soil just a few days after Biden entered office in January 2021.
Biden did mention that not all NATO countries have agreed at that time to the necessary tough sanctions on Russia if the country does invade the Ukraine. Biden summed up his statement by saying that “it depends on what he does, as to . . .what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity . . . on the NATO front.”
Biden seemed to waiver once reporters tried to press him on his comments. He also added, ” . . . the idea that we would do anything to split NATO, which would be a . . .have a profound impact on one of . . I think prominent impact . . .on one of Putin’s objectives is to weaken NATO . . . would be a big mistake.”
Of course, with tensions high in Europe concerning Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, many American officials suggested to Biden that he clarify his Wednesday comments. The Biden Administration released a statement on Thursday: “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.” Jen Psaki shared this statement on Thursday afternoon.