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Zelensky issued veiled criticism of Biden on Thursday over comments he made on Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
"There are no minor incursions," Zelensky said in a tweet.
Biden prompted confusion when he suggested a "minor incursion" by Russia would spark a debate on consequences.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday issued veiled criticism of President Joe Biden over controversial remarks he made regarding Russia at a news conference the day before.
"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," Zelensky tweeted.
At his first solo news conference of 2022, Biden caused some confusion when he suggested a "minor incursion" by Russia, as opposed to a full-scale invasion, would lead to a discussion or debate with allies over the potential consequences.
"It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do," Biden told reporters. "But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine."
—JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) January 19, 2022
These comments immediately raised questions, as some onlookers interpreted them as undermining the Biden administration's generally firm stance on punishing Russia over aggression toward Ukraine.
"Don't understand logic of @POTUS suggesting he believes Russians will move into Ukraine & that if they do it in a relatively small way there would be less of a price to pay," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a tweet. "That may well be true, but both statements weaken deterrence & weaken prospects for a diplomatic outcome."
The White House scrambled to clarify Biden's remarks, underscoring that a Russian invasion would be met with a "severe" response.
"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 US and our allies," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
"Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics," Psaki added. "And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response."
Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, in a tweet said that Biden was "referring to the difference between military and non-military/para-military/cyber action by the Russians."
"Such actions would be met by a reciprocal response, in coordination with Allies and partners," Horne said.
In spite of the White House's efforts to expand on the meaning of Biden's remarks, Ukraine apparently did not appreciate the president's framing.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday suggested that Biden opened a dangerous door for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You're either aggressive or you're not aggressive," Kuleba said. "We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact."
But Kubela added that he has "no doubt that President Biden is committed to Ukraine."
Russia has prompted fears it's planning to invade Ukraine by gathering tens of thousands of troops on the border of the former Soviet republic in recent months.
The Kremlin says it has no plans to invade. But Moscow has also refused to pull its troops back from the border to reduce tensions, while repeatedly making demands for binding security guarantees that the US and NATO have consistently made clear are non-starters. This includes demanding that Ukraine and Georgia never be permitted to join NATO.
Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and since that year has backed separatists in a war against Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region that's killed over 13,000 people and displaced roughly 1.5 million.
The US has warned Russia it will face major economic consequences if it invades. Diplomatic efforts to thwart a broader conflict have so far failed to produce any major breakthroughs.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling across Europe this week, including visits to Kyiv and Berlin, as the US continues to search for a peaceful resolution to the hostilities. Blinken, who is set to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, on Wednesday warned that Russia could invade Ukraine on "very short notice."
Read the original article on Business Insider