President Joe Biden appeared to give up the idea of stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, telling reporters at a press conference Wednesday that “he will move in, he has to do something.”
Biden answered questions at a special press conference to mark the first year of his presidency. He was asked several questions about the crisis in Eastern Europe and what he would do to stop Russia from invading Ukraine.
Asked whether the U.S. and NATO had lost their leverage over Russia and Putin, since Biden had ruled out using troops to stop an invasion, Biden at first defended his threat to impose economic sanctions: “He’s never seen sanctions like the ones I’ve promised will be imposed if he moves.” He pledged that there would be “severe economic consequences,” and that Russian banks could be restricted from using dollars in transactions.
But Biden seemed to concede that Russia might invade, and that the U.S. reaction might depend on whether it was a “minor incursion” or something more significant. He warned that Russia would suffer “consequential” casualties in fighting Ukraine, suggesting that Russia would pay a heavy internal price from a prolonged occupation of a foreign country.
David Sanger of the New York Times then asked Biden if he still thought “the last thing [Putin] wants is a Cold War,” referring to a comment Biden had made last year.
Biden responded that he did not think Putin wanted a “full-blown war,” but that he thought Putin would “test the West, test the United States and NATO,” though he would “pay a serious and dear price” and would “regret” having invaded Ukraine.
“He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West,” Biden said, speculating on Putin’s motives. “I’m not so sure he is certain what he’s going to do. My guess is he will move in, he has to do something.”
Biden said he was willing to compromise with Putin on the question of banning NATO from placing strategic weapons in Ukraine, and added that it was not likely Ukraine would be admitted to membership in NATO.
“But I think, as usual, he’s going to — I probably shouldn’t go any further. I think it will hurt him badly,” Biden concluded.
Later, Biden was asked whether his apparent willingness to tolerate a “minor incursion” meant that sanctions would not be imposed. He was equivocal, saying “it depends” on what Putin did, and whether NATO could be united around a response.
Asked again whether he thought Russia would invade, Biden said it was “totally, solely, completely a Putin decision.” He then speculated on whether Putin might one day attempt a larger-scale invasion of Ukraine. “I believe he’s calculating.”
Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 and remains there; Russian troops have already performed incursions into eastern Ukraine.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.