Ukrainian foreign minister says an 'invasion is an invasion' and urges U.S. to step up sanctions

Dmytro Kuleba
(Image credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

After Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine on Monday and ordered Russian troops into their territory, several critics recalled comments President Biden made last month in which he suggested that the U.S. and NATO might not respond as forcefully to a "minor incursion" by Russia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba recalled Biden's comment on Tuesday at the U.S. State Department. "There is no such thing as minor, middle, or major invasion. Invasion is an invasion," he said.

Biden said at a Jan. 19 press conference that "Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion, and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not do,"

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"Are you effectively giving Putin permission to make a small incursion?" a reporter asked.

Biden didn't give a concrete answer, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki insisted later that day that if "any Russian forces move across the Ukrainian border ... that's a renewed invasion."

But that clarification, prompt as it was, may have been too little too late.

Daily Mail opinion writer Jim Geraghty wrote that "Biden is getting the 'minor incursion' that he invited."

Kuleba also urged the U.S. to intensify sanctions against Russia. He said sanctions will only be effective "if it continues in a very sustained ... way. President Putin should not have a single minute when he starts to think that this is the threshold."

Biden said Tuesday that more sanctions would follow and also described Russia's actions an "invasion," but Republican critics like former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley were quick to argue the U.S. should have delivered a more "swift and severe" response, Politico reported.

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