UPDATE: After 12 hours, the White House is changing its tone and calling Putin’s actions an invasion worthy of sanctions, which are being implemented today.
WASHINGTON (AP) — White House now calling Russian moves on Ukraine an invasion, sets stage for strong sanctions.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 22, 2022
The White House is now shifting its tone, calling Russian troops into Ukrainian separatist regions “an invasion.”— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) February 22, 2022
“Based on the evolving situation and what was we are seeing on the ground, what is underway is an invasion,” a sr admin official tells @NBCNews.
For weeks the Biden White House claimed if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to send troops into Ukraine, invading the sovereign country, that harsh punishment would swiftly follow.
"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," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki released in a statement on January 19, 2022. "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 those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response."
On Monday, Putin gave an address to his country and declared two parts of eastern Ukraine independent territory. He then sent troops to invade the regions, calling them "peacekeepers."
Ukrainian Member of Parliament just posted video of Russian tanks in Eastern Ukraine, being spread by Russian social media channels. The invasion has begun. Deterrence has failed. Pray for the innocent. https://t.co/rP8x0CzPVL— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) February 21, 2022
Now that Putin has made his first move, the Biden administration is shifting the goal posts and arguing his actions don't meet the invasion threshold.
NEW: In a conference call with reporters on responding to Putin, and what comes next, a senior admin official suggested that Russian troops in Donetsk/Luhansk *alone* may *not* warrant the "swift and severe" sanctions the admin has been previewing.— Ali Rogin (@AliRogin) February 21, 2022
To my ear, this is a new ambiguity that, up until now, the administration has not employed.— Ali Rogin (@AliRogin) February 21, 2022
On a media call, an SAO declined to say if Putin moving troops into separatist territories in Eastern Ukraine constituted an invasion.— Ashley Parker (@AshleyRParker) February 22, 2022
But after, another official told me that the admin. defines an “invasion” as Russian troops entering a part of Ukraine NOT occupied since 2014.
This is a backtrack from Biden’s 1/20 statement that any violation of Ukraine’s recognized borders constitutes invasion. Worse, it’s a hideous cave to the Russian view that changing the facts on the ground by force is legitimate. Very bad line the WH needs to correct asap. https://t.co/iZt4sv7uou— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) February 22, 2022
Biden signed a toothless executive order Monday night claiming to cut off Russian "profits" from the current situation.
"We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately. President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine. This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine. The Departments of State and Treasury will have additional details shortly. We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments," Psaki released in a statement. "To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine."
"We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps and on Russia’s ongoing escalation along the border with Ukraine," the statement continues.
I have signed an Executive Order to deny Russia the chance to profit from its blatant violations of international law. We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps. pic.twitter.com/ZS81ivAPgs— President Biden (@POTUS) February 22, 2022