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President Joe Biden said Wednesday that it would be a “disaster” for Russia if President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of neighboring Ukraine, as he said he did not know Putin’s intentions, but said his counterpart does not want a “war in all rules”.

But the president also said publicly that it was unclear what the response would be if Russia did anything less than an all-out invasion, which would require the White House to act immediately to clean up his comments.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight over what to do and what not to do and so on,” Biden said at a White House news conference where Russia was repeatedly brought up.

Later Wednesday night, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne wrote that Biden had “cleared this up.” He was referring to the difference between military and non-military/paramilitary/cyber action by the Russians. Said actions would be carried out with a reciprocal response, in coordination with the Allies and partners,’ he said.

A Ukrainian official, responding to Biden’s original comments, told CNN after the news conference: “This comment potentially gives Putin the green light to enter Ukraine whenever he wants.”

The White House was also forced to issue a full clarifying statement. “President Biden has been clear with the Russian president: If any Russian military forces cross the border into Ukraine, this is a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, stern and united response from the United States and our allies.” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

“President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that these acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal and united response,’ he said.

Biden said he was unsure of Putin’s intentions, saying he can rely on “which side of the bed he gets up in the morning from to know exactly what he’s going to do.”

I’m not so sure he’s sure what he’s going to do. I guess he will move. He has to do something,” Biden said, saying Russia already has intelligence agents operating inside the country.

He also speculated on the issues Putin is weighing, amid the collapse of the former Soviet empire.

“He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West,” Biden said.

He said he was “very worried” about the situation, which he said “could get out of hand very easily.” He called it one of the “most momentous” situations since World War II “in terms of war and peace.”

“I think he doesn’t want a full-fledged war just yet,” Biden said, warning of the short-term and long-term consequences he would face.

Biden outlined in some detail some of what he said Putin would face, suggesting that Russia would be blacklisted and unable to trade dollars in a global interbank electronic trading system, which could severely hit its economy.

“We find ourselves in a position where … there will be serious economic consequences,” Biden said. ‘For example, anything that involves dollar denominations: if they invade, they’re going to pay. Your banks will not be able to deal in dollars. So there are a lot of things that are going to happen,” he said.

The president said Russia would pay a “dear price” through sanctions if it acts, after massing more than 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. But he also spelled out an area for possible talks on one of Russia’s demands, and even provided assurances on the issue of NATO expansion.

“You have never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if you move,” Biden said of the economic response the United States would impose if Russia were to be its neighbor again, after seizing Crimea in 2014.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight over what to do and what not to do and so on,” he said.

He said it would be a “disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine.”

“But if they really do what they are capable of doing with the forces accumulated on the border, it will be a disaster for Russia if they continue to invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant damage on Russia and the Russian economy,” the president said.

President Joe Biden said Russia would pay a “high price” through sanctions if it invades Ukraine.

He also discussed his talks with Putin, which included a summit in Geneva, as well as calls and a zoom session.

He said he told Russia that it has occupied nations before, but “the price has been extremely high.”

He asked how long Russia could sustain such an effort, which would cause great economic loss.

“How many years?” Biden asked. A? Three? Five? Ten? ‘How much is that? It is real. It is consistent.

“This is not a cakewalk for Russia,” he predicted. “They will pay a heavy price immediately” and in the medium to long term “if they do,” Biden said.

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said Biden had

National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said Biden had “clarified” his comments and Russia’s actions would be met with a “reciprocal response.”

Biden said he is not sure of Vladimir Putin's intentions and that it may depend on

Biden said he is not sure of Vladimir Putin’s intentions and that it may depend on “which side of the bed” he wakes up on.

Biden spoke of the difficulty of Russia invading Ukraine from the North

Biden spoke of the difficulty of Russia invading Ukraine from the North

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Biden about concerns of a possible invasion.  A Ukrainian official angered CNN that Biden's comments could give

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Biden about concerns of a possible invasion. A Ukrainian official angered CNN that Biden’s comments could give Putin a ‘green light’

He also mentioned two Russian demands: guarantees that NATO will not allow Ukraine to join the alliance and a commitment not to place strategic weapons in Ukraine.

“We can work something out on the second piece,” Biden predicted.

But on a promise to admit Ukraine to NATO, he said that countries can choose their own alliances. He then added that in the ‘short term’ it was ‘unlikely’ that Ukraine would have been admitted as there was more work to be done on democracy and other issues.

Nor did he correct a questioner when a reporter said Ukraine’s admission could be decades away.


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