Ukraine’s foreign minister rebuked comments Thursday by President Joe Biden about bout a how the U.S. would respond to a ‘minor incursion’ by Russia – saying it might encourage another form of ‘aggression’ from Vladimir Putin.
Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba made the comments to the Wall Street Journal hours after Biden’s comments about his country – in a signal of concern about how the president’s words might be interpreted in Moscow.
The administration has spent weeks signaling that Russia would get hit by massive sanctions if Putin chose to invade its neighbor again, following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
‘Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,’ said Kuleba.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba commented publicly in response to President Joe Biden’s words about how the U.S. would respond to a ‘minor incursion’ in his country. ‘We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations’
‘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,’ he added.
He also said his government still believed Biden was committed to the country. ‘We in Ukraine have no doubt that President Biden is committed to Ukraine,’ he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referenced the comment in a tweet Thursday: ‘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,’ he said, appending the Ukrainian flag.
Zelensky and the foreign minister’s public comments came hours after an unidentified Ukrainian official said Biden’s comments gave a ‘green light’ to Putin. The official made the remark to CNN just minutes after Biden’s comments.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted about ‘minor incursions’ in response
”We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations.,’ said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R), seen here with Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Biden had said it would be a ‘disaster’ for Russia if it invaded Ukraine, but also said: ‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ Biden said at a White House press conference where Russia came up repeatedly.
That comment prompted cleanup from the White House Wednesday night, a task Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Vice President Kamala Harris carried forward in Thursday morning TV interviews.
Psaki told Fox News in an interview Thursday: ‘Let me be very clear what the president has conveyed directly to president Putin. If there is any movement of military troops across the border into Ukraine, if they go into Ukraine and invade there is an invasion and severe economic consequences,’ she said.
She said US is prepared for ‘a range of tactics the Russians use, whether it’s the little green men or cyberattacks’ – a possible reference to subversive tactics. The comment followed the emergence of internet images of armed men inside Ukraine who resembled members of the Russian military. Putin has insisted they are in fact Ukrainian ‘self-defense groups.’
‘We’ll be prepared to respond to that as well. So we’re prepared for a range of tactics they may use. If they move their military in Ukraine we’ll be responding,’ said Psaki.
Harris was at times defensive in her own comments. At one point Harris snapped at NBC Today anchor Savannah Guthrie who said the White House’s messaging was ‘less than clear’ on the matter.
‘I’m being clear with you right now,’ Harris said over Guthrie. ‘And so if you’re interested, I’ll continue to be clear. Which is we’ve had direct conversations through various levels of diplomacy — with Putin, with Russia and most importantly with our allies and partners.
‘We are clear and have been clear for quite some time, that our first approach and priority, and preference, is that these issues can be resolved diplomatically. We also have been clear, and continue to be clear, that if Russian takes aggressive action, it will be met with severe cost.’
President Joe Biden was asked about the tense situation in Eastern Europe during a lengthy press conference on Wednesday, where he promised Russia would be ‘held accountable if it invades.’
Harris embarked on a slew of morning news interviews as part of the White House’s effort to clean up Biden’s comments
But then he continued: ‘And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera. 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.’
The administration immediately launched into damage control mode, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki putting out a statement that any ‘renewed invasion’ would be met with ‘a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.’
But Biden’s remarks already sent shockwaves through the international community.
Officials in Kyiv reacted to Biden’s words ‘with alarm,’ NBC reported.
And in another television interview, Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos also confronted Harris on the effect it had on the United States’ Eastern allies.
Biden said at his press conference yesterday that it’s ‘one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do, et cetera. 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’
An adviser to Ukraine’s president told ABC on Thursday that Biden’s comment was met with ‘shock and dismay’ in Kyiv.
‘The president has been very clear that if Russia takes aggressive action, it will be met with serious, severe, and a unified response and consequences,’ Harris said.
‘And that position that we have taken is grounded in a number of values that we hold dear, including the importance of respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity — in this case of Ukraine — and we have not wavered from that perspective.’
She didn’t elaborate when asked whether a Russian invasion would be met with sanctions or even full scale military action.
‘We will interpret any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and Vladimir Putin as an aggressive action and it will be met with costs, severe and certain,’ Harris said.