Ns News Online Desk: WASHINGTON/BERLIN-U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that any Russian troop movements across Ukraine’s border would constitute an invasion, saying that Moscow would “pay a heavy price” for such an action.
His stark warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin came in remarks from the White House and was another effort to clear up any confusion about the position of the U.S. and its NATO allies after Biden was heavily criticized Wednesday for saying a “minor incursion” by Russia would elicit a lesser response.
“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 said. “Let there be no doubt at all if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.”
His comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet Friday in Geneva with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a high-stakes bid to ease tensions that appears likely to fail.
On Wednesday, Biden said he thinks Moscow will invade and warned Putin that his country would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.
But Biden also prompted consternation among allies after saying the response to a Russian invasion “depends on what it does.” “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” he said.
Biden said Thursday that “Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression — paramilitary tactics, so-called gray zone attacks and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was among those expressing concern about Biden’s “minor incursion” remark.
“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,” he tweeted.
Earlier, Blinken warned in Berlin that there would be a “swift, severe” response from the United States and its allies if Russia sent any military forces into Ukraine. “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 told a news conference with his German counterpart.
Later, Blinken accused Russia of threatening the foundations of world order with its buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine. He said Russia must face a concerted and severe global response if it invades.
His speech came in Berlin, the city that symbolized the Cold War split between East and West, as Blinken prepares to meet Friday in Geneva with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a high-stakes bid to ease tensions that appears likely to fail.
“These are difficult issues we are facing, and resolving them won’t happen quickly,” Blinken said. “I certainly don’t expect we’ll solve them in Geneva tomorrow.”
He said Russia’s actions toward Ukraine are an attempt to subvert international norms and just the latest in a string of Moscow’s violations of numerous treaties, agreements and other commitments it has made to respect the sovereignty and territory of other countries.