White House Waffles on Definition of Invasion
The White House backpedaled after drawing bipartisan criticism for its claim that Russia sending troops to disputed Ukrainian territory isn’t considered an invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognized two occupied regions as independent of Ukraine, ordering troops to enter. A Biden administration official said the US doesn’t consider this a “new step” because Russian troops have been there since 2014.
However, White House principal deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer contradicted this position during an appearance on CNN.
“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” Finer said.
“And you are already seeing the beginning of our response that we have said will be swift and severe,” he continued.
Finer later denied any difference between the “beginning of an invasion” and an “invasion.”
“An invasion is an invasion, and that is underway,” he said.
On Monday, Putin sent troops into the area after recognizing the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics as independent. President Joe Biden then signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Luhansk and Donetsk but held off on issuing the punishing sanctions against Russia the U.S. has promised if Moscow invades Ukraine.
“To be clear, if any additional Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act.”
Two leading Republican lawmakers laid into the Biden administration.
“We must immediately impose real costs for this blatant act of aggression and flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Unfortunately, the sanctions previewed by the White House thus far are the definition of impotence,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (TX), the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers (AL), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
The two Republicans called for “President Biden to impose sanctions that strike at the heart of the Russian economy.”