US President Joe Biden has said that any Russian movement into Ukraine “is an invasion,” seeking to clear up his remarks from a day earlier when he appeared to distinguish between a Russian invasion of Ukraine and a "minor incursion."
"I've been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding. If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion," Biden said on Thursday.
"Let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price," Biden added.
He also noted that there was also the threat for a cyberattack or para-military action by Russia that would require a coordinated response from Washington and its allies.
"The Ukrainian foreign minister said this morning that he's confident of our support and resolve and he has a right to be," Biden said.
The comments were Biden's first since he held a press conference on Wednesday where he said suggested that a “minor” Russian incursion in Ukraine would not trigger massive economic sanctions that he has promised.
“It depends on what he does as to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front,” he said Wednesday, referring to the allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do,” Biden said.
However, less than an hour after the Biden conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement reiterating that Russia will suffer severe costs if it invades Ukraine.
“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 said.
“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,” she added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday visited Ukraine where he said that Russia could launch a new attack on Ukraine at "very short notice.”
Blinken promised, "relentless diplomatic efforts to prevent renewed aggression and to promote dialogue and peace". He said a Russian build-up of tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine's borders was taking place with "no provocation, no reason".
"We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice, and that gives President (Vladimir) Putin the capacity, also on very short notice, to take further aggressive action against Ukraine," he said.
The development comes as US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of preparing a false-flag operation to invade Ukraine.