President Joe Biden again tried to clarify his comments Thursday about how the United States would respond if Russia invaded Ukraine.
“If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,” Biden stressed during a White House event on infrastructure Thursday, promising punishing economic sanctions if Russian President Vladimir Putin crossed the line.
Biden’s comment seemed to suggest that “unassembled” Russian units could cross into Ukraine and not trigger a response, a day after the White House spent several hours trying to clarify the president’s comments about Putin to concerned allies.
Biden shocked the world after he suggested during a press conference on Wednesday that it was a foregone conclusion Putin would move into Ukraine.
“My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” Biden said.
He also suggested that “a minor incursion” into the country would not necessarily provoke a response from the United States.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an emergency evening speech after Biden’s remarks urging his citizens to “take a deep breath” and “calm down.”
“Keep your head calm and cool, remain confident in your strength, in your Army, in our Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “Do not get anxious, react smartly to everything, not emotionally! With your head, not your heart.”
Republican Senators denounced Biden’s comments as a sign of weakness to Putin and the rest of the world, suggesting he was abandoning Ukraine to the Russians.
“Joe Biden’s impotence emboldened Vladimir Putin and now he just green-lighted Putin to invade Ukraine,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wrote on social media.
Joe Biden’s impotence emboldened Vladimir Putin and now he just green-lighted Putin to invade Ukraine.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 19, 2022
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said he was “very concerned by the weak, incoherent message” voiced by Biden during his press conference.
“This administration must be clear that ANY Putin move into Ukraine is unacceptable, and we should do more to impose costs on him,” he wrote.
I am very concerned by the weak, incoherent message we just heard from @POTUS on Ukraine.
This administration must be clear that ANY Putin move into Ukraine is unacceptable, and we should do more to impose costs on him. https://t.co/GqCPlNrg4o
— Sen. Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) January 19, 2022
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he was “stunned” by Biden’s comments.
“On Ukraine, President Biden’s statements are unnerving,” he said. “He would be better off not speaking.”
On Ukraine, President Biden's statements are unnerving. He would be better off not speaking.
People in #Ukraine have to be stunned by what he just said.
I'm stunned by it too. pic.twitter.com/QBZrB94EJB
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 19, 2022