WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden predicted in a press conference that Russia will ‘move in’ to Ukraine after amassing 100,000 troops around its borders in recent weeks, according to CNN, however, White House officials were forced to clarify that any incursion would be met with a severe response after Biden suggested a ‘minor incursion’ could be treated differently to a full invasion.
The precise definitions matter because NATO allies are not united on how to respond to Russia, and there are a number of different forms any Russian action could take.
Deutsche Welle reported last month, for instance, that a Russian court had acknowledged Russian soldiers are already present in the Donbas region of Ukraine, though the Kremlin denies it, while a press statement by White House spokesperson Jen Psaki suggested aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics, would be treated separately to “any Russian military forces mov[ing] across the Ukrainian border,’” which it said would be seen as a “renewed invasion.” The phrase ‘renewed invasion’ referred to the fact that Russia seized Crimea eight years ago and backed the separatist forces who took control of the Donbas region.
As of now, according to The New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia wants security guarantees which would block NATO from expanding eastward into its sphere of influence and, according to President Biden, cited by Reuters, Putin has asked specifically that Ukraine never join NATO and that ‘strategic’ or nuclear weapons never be stationed on Ukrainian soil.
In terms of concrete consequences should Russian troops enter Ukraine, the U.S. president said Russian companies could lose the ability to use the U.S. dollar and said more ambiguously that “it’s going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine.”