Hoo boy: There’s no such thing as a “minor incursion,” tweets Ukrainian president

Pity this poor bastard, who must have assumed that his worst experience with a U.S. president would be the former guy trying to trade him military aid in exchange for dirt on his election opponent.

Little did he know that Trump’s successor would all but dare Putin to invade Ukraine at a press conference, even hinting that there’d be few repercussions so long as the incursion was “minor.”

The competition for “dumbest thing Biden’s said as president” is stiff but that’s a strong contender. Possibly second only to the president suggesting five minutes earlier, at the same press conference, that the midterm elections won’t be legitimate if state election reform laws aren’t overridden by Congress.

Biden officials are in overdrive today trying to clean up the “minor incursion” comment, but the damage is done:

Imagine facing an existential threat from Vladimir Putin when your main ally is led by Donald Trump and then Joe Biden. Ukraine’s a goner.

Ukrainian officials were mortified by the “minor incursion” remark in interviews with western media yesterday, baffled by why Biden would imply that something short of a full-scale invasion might be tolerable to the west.

The candid assessment of NATO’s divisions — which have been well documented, even as US and Western officials seek to project unity amid the crisis — left Ukrainian officials aghast. One told CNN’s Matthew Chance he was “shocked that the US President Biden would distinguish between incursion and invasion” and suggest that a minor incursion would not trigger sanctions.

“This gives the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure,” the official added, claiming he’d never heard any nuance like this from the US administration before.

“Kyiv is stunned,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian government.

Ukraine’s foreign minister was tactful, telling the Wall Street Journal that he didn’t question Biden’s commitment to Ukraine, but … it does sound like he questions it, understandably so. “Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you cannot be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive,” Dmytro Kuleba said. “We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact.”

Even Republicans who aren’t part of the party’s large “Let’s go, Brandon” majority felt obliged to vent their disgust:

What was Biden thinking? There are myriad things Russian could do, and has done in the past, to attack Ukraine short of an all-out invasion. Would any of those qualify as a “minor incursion”? What if Russia “only” carves off 100 miles of Ukrainian territory via military conquest? Sufficiently “minor”?

The effort to walk back the “minor incursion” comment is an all-hands-on-deck affair today by the White House. It started with a statement from Jen Psaki last night (not the only one she had to issue “clarifying” remarks made by Biden at his press conference) stressing that any entry by Russian forces into Ukrainian territory is a red line: “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.” An official said the same thing to CNN:

A senior administration official said if Russian military forces tried to take Ukrainian territory by force and violated Ukrainian sovereignty — whether that was a “small portion or a large portion” of land — that would constitute an “invasion” by the Biden administration’s standards and would warrant severe penalties.

The VP tried to clean it up too:

And so did the president himself in his first photo op of the day:

Good enough or too late? If Putin does end up pulling the trigger, I’d guess there’s a 90 percent chance he’ll tell international media in the aftermath that it’s only a “minor incursion,” with a smirk.

I’ll leave you with this gag from the Onion, which is months old but anticipated Biden’s bizarre inadvertent inducement to invade in yesterday’s presser. Scandinavians won’t find it amusing, though: With tensions rising between the west and Moscow, Sweden has moved to fortify the island of Gotland near Russia. Just in case a war in Ukraine doesn’t remain confined to Ukraine.

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