Boris Johnson joined a scramble by the West last night to correct a speech blunder by Joe Biden which was interpreted as a ‘green light’ for Russia to invade Ukraine.
The US President had said Vladimir Putin would probably ‘move in’ but that a ‘minor incursion’ could cause in-fighting inside Nato over how to respond.
His remarks triggered panic in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and among Nato states.
Mr Johnson responded yesterday: ‘Be in no doubt that if Russia were to make any kind of incursion into Ukraine, on any scale whatever, I think that would be a disaster not just for Ukraine but for Russia. It would be a disaster for the world.’
And in a speech on Friday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will accuse Russia of failing to ‘learn the lessons of history’ and predict an invasion of Ukraine ‘will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life’.
Speaking on a diplomatic visit to Australia, she will say: ‘We need everyone to step up.
‘Together with our allies we will continue to stand with Ukraine and urge Russia to de-escalate and engage in meaningful discussions.
‘What happens in Eastern Europe matters for the world.’
Responding to Mr Biden’s remarks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: ‘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.’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (pictured) will accuse Russia of failing to ‘learn the lessons of history’ and predict an invasion of Ukraine ‘will only lead to a terrible quagmire and loss of life’
A satellite image shows equipment deployed at Klimovo Railyard in Klimovo, Russia, on Wednesday
Battle group deployments at the Pogonovo training area in Voronezh, Russia, amid rising tensions over an invasion of Ukraine
Service members fire a salute during a ceremony in tribute to fallen defenders of Ukraine on Thursday
Ukrainian soldiers stand at their Hamvee on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, on Thursday
A Ukrainian soldier stands in the trench on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels
President Joe Biden has warned Russia’s Vladimir Putin that the U.S. could impose new sanctions against Russia if it takes further military action against Ukraine
An Ukrainian soldier walks on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Thursday
Moscow has for weeks been massing tens of thousands of troops, tanks and artillery pieces along its eastern flank, sparking fears of an invasion, though the Kremlin has insisted it is merely a defence force (pictured, Russian forces currently massed in border regions)
A map showing the route the six landing ships could possibly be taking from Russia’s second Baltic Sea base Kronstadt to Ukraine ahead of a ‘full-scale invasion’. The vessels were pictured at the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark on Monday and, if heading to Ukraine, are likely to have already transited the Channel
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on its borders with Ukraine, with an imminent assault feared. The Kremlin denies it is planning an attack, but says it could take unspecified military action if its security demands are not met.
Mr Putin wants a veto on new Nato members and for Western troops to withdraw from former Soviet republics.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, the gaffe-prone US President suggested Mr Putin would get off lightly if troops went into Ukraine’s eastern regions but stopped there.
He said: ‘Russia will be held accountable if it invades – and it depends on what it does.
‘It’s one thing if it is a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do… It’s very important that we keep everyone in Nato on the same page.’
He added: ‘My guess is [Mr Putin] will move in, he has to do something.’ But afterwards, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said any Russian military invasion would be met by a ‘swift, severe and united response’ by Nato.
Six Russian landing ships (pictured, landing ship Minsk near the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark en route to the North Sea) have sailed past Britain sparking speculation they are bound for an impending ‘full-scale invasion’ of Ukraine
The region has been on a knife-edge since the end of last year when Moscow moved as many as 100,000 troops, as well as tanks and missiles, close to the border (pictured, a battle group deployment in Voronezh, Russia, near the Ukrainian border on January 19)
Satellite images dated January 19 show a battlegroup deployed at Voronezh base around 200 miles from the Ukraine border as Moscow ramps up a military build up along the frontier in preparation for a ‘nine-month war’
One Ukraine official said Mr Biden’s comment ‘stunned’ Kiev, adding: ‘This gives Putin the green light to invade at his pleasure.’
Other Western security sources said it was a ‘gift to Putin’. Mr Biden sought to clarify the US position last night.
‘If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion,’ he said, adding it will be met by a ‘severe and coordinated’ economic response that has been discussed in detail with allies and laid out to Mr Putin.
This mumbling, stumbling President is a clear and present danger to world peace: The security of Europe is on a knife-edge, the credibility of the United States is on the line… and America’s allies are looking for a cool head, writes DOMINIC GREEN
By Dominic Green in Boston Massachussetts for The Daily Mail
The message was unmistakable. At his first press conference since November — an event that was meant to be a reset for a presidency that has already had more resets than a dud satellite box — Joe Biden gave Vladimir Putin the green light to attack Ukraine.
That’s what I heard when I watched his mumbling, stumbling performance on Wednesday afternoon. It’s what millions of Americans heard — and it’s what Vladimir Putin was waiting to hear.
Biden said that Russia ‘will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, but then added that ‘it 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,’ Biden went on. ‘But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.’
Biden said that Russia ‘will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, but then added that ‘it depends on what it does’
In other words, Putin is welcome to sink his teeth into a European state and an American ally — just so long as he doesn’t take too big a bite.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was understandably appalled. ‘We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations,’ he tweeted. ‘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.’
The country’s foreign minister was less subtle — he stated baldly that Biden’s comments could invite a Russian attack.
Once more, the leader of the free world had been thinking with his mouth open. And proving again that he can’t be trusted.
True, a desperate scrabble to clean up the mess was launched by the White House with Biden clarifying his comments. ‘I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding,’ he said. ‘If any — any — assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.’
But by now the damage had been done.
Putin is welcome to sink his teeth into a European state and an American ally — just so long as he doesn’t take too big a bite
The security of Europe is on a knife-edge, the future of Nato in the balance. The credibility of the United States is on the line, and America’s allies are looking for a cool head and unconditional support for the basic principles of international law and order. But the sheriff had a senior moment, gave away the game plan, and revealed he is a clear and present danger to world peace.
Nor was this an unfortunate one-off. Whenever the President pokes his head above the parapet, Biden’s team are hanging on every ill-considered word, and issuing ‘clarifications’ of his addled thoughts in real time. It’s farcical, but it’s how this hopeless administration operates.
Twice last year, Biden made unscripted commitments to fighting China over Taiwan. China doesn’t recognise Taiwan’s independence. For more than four decades, the U.S. has followed a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’: it has armed Taiwan, but it has never stated what it would do if China attacked the country.
Biden’s ad libs threatened to upset the nuclear-tipped balance of power in the Pacific. The Chinese foreign ministry told Biden to watch his mouth. The U.S., it said, should ‘be cautious with its words and actions’ and ‘not send any wrong signals so as not to damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait’.
The White House clarifiers back then said the President ‘misspoke’. When he said the U.S. would fight China because it had a ‘commitment’, he didn’t mean it.
Again, the damage had been done. The world saw that America could no longer keep its promises. Allies ran for cover, and the West’s enemies licked their chops.
Biden hasn’t just ‘lost a step’ as the Americans say. He’s not even in the game.
Our loose-lipped President is sinking the ship of state, and his popularity is tanking at home.
The White House is in denial, but the country sees the sad reality of a President in obvious mental decline.
In a mid-November poll, only 46 per cent agreed that Biden was ‘mentally fit’ — and 48 per cent thought he wasn’t up to the job. Just 34 per cent think he’s ‘energetic’, and a mere 37 per cent think he’s a ‘clear communicator’.
On Wednesday, the gaffemeister-in-chief struggled to field the softest of questions.
Asked if the voters might punish the Democrats in November’s midterms, Biden replied: ‘Oh I think that it could be . . . I mean, I hope in God that they’re, uh . . . that . . . look . . . maybe I’m kidding myself . . . Time goes on . . .’
The security of Europe is on a knife-edge, the future of Nato in the balance as tensions rise on the Ukrainian border
He falls silent for five seconds in the middle of a sentence. He looks up to the ceiling, as if the thread of his thinking is tied to a balloon that has drifted out of his hand.
He grips his lectern and his folder of facts as if he’s trying to squeeze out some inspiration. He quickly gets tired.
The more tired he gets, the more he falls back on mock-spontaneous fillers — ‘C’mon, man!’ – while he tries to remember what he was saying. And he gets angrier and angrier.
Everyone has an elderly relative in cognitive decline, and everyone knows that Biden is declining fast. In the care homes of America, they call his trouble ‘sundowning’. Energy and focus ebb away through the day.
By sundown, the old-timers are halfway to sleep, if not senility. But this is the President of the world’s greatest superpower.
Biden has the worst first-year poll numbers of any president in living memory. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Even the broadcaster CNN, which acclaimed Biden’s victory in the 2020 elections with Pravda-like enthusiasm, has turned on him. Van Jones, an Obama appointee-turned-talking head on the network, called Biden’s performance on Wednesday ‘foggy and meandering, like Reagan at the end’.
The difference is, Reagan was on his way out by that stage — and he had won the Cold War. Biden is only a year into his presidency. He’s the figurehead of an arrogant and ignorant administration, and he’s just invited Putin to become the master of Europe.
Biden says he wants to run again in 2024, but even his deputy Kamala Harris refuses to give a straight answer when she’s asked if she would endorse him.
The world saw that America could no longer keep its promises. Allies ran for cover, and the West’s enemies licked their chops
The public share her doubts. It’s bad news for Biden that only 28 per cent of Americans want him to run again.
It’s a disaster for him that only 48 per cent of registered Democrats back a second Biden term.
‘Why do you suppose such large segments of the American electorate have come to harbour such profound concerns about your cognitive fitness?’ a reporter from the conservative site Newsmax asked Biden on Wednesday.
‘I have no idea,’ he croaked.
He was telling the truth, too.
Who could blame Putin for smiling in his Kremlin bunker?
Dr Dominic Green is the editor of The Spectator’s world edition.