Analysis of Joe Biden's first year as president 3:41
President Joe Biden on Wednesday predicted a Russian invasion of Ukraine, citing existential concerns from the country's President Vladimir Putin, even as he warned of significant economic consequences if such an incursion were to occur.
But he suggested that a "minor incursion" would provoke less of a response than a full-scale invasion of the country.
“I'm not so sure that he's sure what he's going to do.
I guess it will move.
He has to do something,” Biden said, describing a leader seeking relevance in a post-Soviet world.
"It is trying to find its place in the world between China and the West."
Biden's prediction of an invasion is the strongest acknowledgment to date that the United States expects Putin to make a move after amassing 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border.
Tension between Russia and Ukraine: what you should know
After speaking with Putin twice last month, Biden said he believed his Russian counterpart had a good understanding of the economic sanctions he was preparing to enact.
"He has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he mobilizes, number one," he said, adding that the level of punishment would depend on how Russia's invasion is viewed.
"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."
"But if they really do what they are capable of doing with the forces built up on the border, it will be a disaster for Russia if they continue to invade Ukraine. And our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant damage on Russia and the Russian economy." , He said.
US President Joe Biden answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on January 19, 2022 in Washington.
That includes limiting Russian transactions at US financial institutions, "anything that involves dollar denominations," Biden said.
Surprise in Ukraine for Biden's words
A Ukrainian official told CNN's Matthew Chance that he is "surprised that the president of the United States distinguished between incursion and invasion" and suggested that a minor incursion would not trigger sanctions, but an invasion would.
"This gives Putin the green light to enter Ukraine whenever he wants," the official added.
The Ukrainian official said he had never heard nuance like this from the US government before.
"Kyiv is stunned," he added, referring to the Ukrainian government.
Explaining the reference to a "minor incursion" that sparked a discussion among Western allies about how to respond, Biden suggested that disunity with NATO could lead to a debate about how to punish Russia for actions in Ukraine that fall short of a large-scale invasion.
“If there is one thing that is where there are Russian forces coming across the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, et cetera, I think that changes everything,” the president said.
"But it depends on what he does, to what extent we will achieve total unity on the NATO front."
"It's very important that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page. That's what I spend a lot of time doing, and there are differences. There are differences in NATO in terms of what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens." , he added.
He also warned that Russian lives would be lost in an invasion, along with possible Ukrainian casualties.
First on CNN: US Intelligence Says Russia Prepares Operation to Justify Ukraine Invasion
"The cost of going to Ukraine in terms of physical loss of life for the Russians: they may prevail over time, but it will be tough," he said.
"It's going to be real. It's going to be consistent. Putin has a tough choice. Either de-escalation or diplomacy. Confrontation and consequences."
"This is not a cakewalk for Russia," he continued.
"Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority. And when it comes to Ukraine, they will pay a heavy price immediately, in the short, medium and long term if they do so."
Biden speculated that Putin was not looking for "any full-fledged war" but said he believed he was looking for some kind of confrontation.
"Do I think he will test the West? Will he test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he will pay a dearly high price for it."
"He does not believe that now it will cost him what it is going to cost him," he said.
And I think you'll regret doing it.
Biden later acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
"The only thing I'm sure of is that that decision is totally, uniquely, completely Putin's decision. No one else is going to make that decision. No one else is going to affect that decision. He's making that decision. And I suspect it matters from which side of the bed he gets up in the morning as far as what exactly he's going to do," Biden said.
He noted that senior US officials who had recently met with their Russian counterparts walked out of the talks not knowing if anyone other than Putin really knew what he was planning to do.
“I think he is calculating what the immediate short-, medium- and long-term consequences of Russia will be.
And I don't think he's made a decision yet," he said.
Zelensky calls for calm in Ukraine
Biden's prediction came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Ukrainians not to panic and "calm down" over fears of a possible Russian invasion.
"All our citizens, especially the elderly, need to understand this: everyone needs to exhale. Calm down. Don't run for emergency supplies like buckwheat and matches. To all the media: stay like the media, don't become a mass source of hysteria." Do not help the enemy in pursuit of hype by reporting daily that war may happen tomorrow! This will definitely not stop it."
US says Russia creates excuses to invade Ukraine 1:08
"What's new here? Isn't this the reality of the past eight years? Didn't the invasion start in 2014? Did the threat of war come up just now?"
The only reason for the "panic is that after eight years we are still influenced by this panic," he added.
Zelensky said Russia's "goal is to weaken Ukraine" in order to force Kyiv to give in to Moscow and "create such a context that our 'no' sounds weaker."
Ukraine's leader said that Moscow "actively attacks your nerves, not our state. So that you have a constant sense of panic."
White House clarifies 'raid' comment
Comments by President Biden suggesting disunity within NATO over how to respond to a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine prompted the White House to issue a high-level clarification on Wednesday.
“President Biden has been clear with President Rusai: If any Russian military forces cross the border into Ukraine, this is a new invasion, and it will be met with a swift, stern, and united response from the United States and our allies,” press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.
“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,” Psaki continued.
"And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal and united response."
Biden said during the news conference that Western nations were not in sync on what to do in the event of a minor violation by Russia.
Ukraine Vladimir Putin