from Newsweek - White House Trots Out Top Officials to Control Damage From Biden's Ukraine Gaffe

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Jan 21, 2022, 12:59:52 PMJan 21

White House Trots Out Top Officials to Control Damage From Biden's
Ukraine Gaffe
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As blowback continues to come from President Joe Biden's gaffe regarding
a "minor incursion" from Russia into Ukraine, top White House officials
have scrambled to reiterate what Biden meant.

A number of senior administration members, such as chief of staff Ron
Klain and press secretary Jen Psaki, were doing damage control Thursday
to ensure that Biden's comments were clarified.

The head-scratching remarks came during the president's address on
Wednesday to mark one year since taking office. During the speech, Biden
stated that "it's one thing if [the invasion is] a minor incursion,"
which was interpreted by some as an insinuation that Russia might not be
dealt with as harshly.

During an interview Thursday night on NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt,
Klain spoke with the evening news host regarding the point that the
president was trying to get across.

"I think it's fair to say the White House has pretty aggressively walked
back or clarified, whatever you want to call it, the president's
comments about Ukraine and Russia and whether the president was
signaling that a minor incursion might be viewed through a different
lens," Holt began. "Whether the president meant to say that at the time,
or maybe he was being inarticulate, can you afford any gaffes given the
stakes right now?"

"Well I think the president was quite clear and reiterated his point of
view this morning, very clearly," Klain replied. "[Russian] President
Putin should have no doubt: Any move by the Russian-assembled military
across the border of Ukraine is an invasion; it will be met with a very
severe economic response from the United States and our allies."

"There is no ambiguity about that, the president has told that to
President Putin directly, he reiterated it this morning. If President
Putin makes this move, it will be a horrible mistake," Klain continued.

President Joe Biden
White House officials scrambled Thursday to clarify remarks made by
President Joe Biden on the situation at the Ukrainian border. Officials
made it clear that the president planned to implement severe economic
sanctions if Russia were to invade its neighbor. Here, Biden can be seen
during his press conference to mark one year in office.

Holt followed up by asking if the United States' European partners,
particularly the NATO allies, were concerned by what Biden had said.
However, Klain pushed back on that assertion, stating that the
president's view on the matter was clear.

"[Biden] has made his views very clear to President Putin, he has made
his views clear to the allies ... the president of Russia is on notice."

Klain added that the United States "will have the support of our NATO
allies" in implementing economic sanctions against Russia in the event
of an invasion.

Psaki echoed a similar sentiment in a statement released shortly after
the president's remarks. She stated that Biden's intention was not to
downplay any invasion by Russia.

"President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any
Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a
renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united
response from the United States and our Allies," Psaki wrote. "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."

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne also
stated on Twitter that, when Biden was referring to a "minor incursion,"
he was talking about "the difference between military and
non-military/para-military/cyber action by the Russians."

The rush to clarify President Biden's remarks comes as Russian troops
continue to amass at the Ukrainian border. This has caused growing
tensions between the U.S. and Russia, despite Putin's assertion that his
country was not planning to send soldiers into Ukraine.

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As a result, the United States has pledged severe economic sanctions if
military action were to be taken by Russia. Biden himself stated that it
would be "a disaster" for Russia if it decides to invade Ukraine, a
sentiment that he further reiterated on Thursday.

"[An invasion] would be met with severe and coordinated economic
response that I've discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid
out very clearly for President Putin," Biden reportedly stated during a
meeting following his press conference.

Newsweek has reached out to the White House for comment.

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