Wicker: Biden’s comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for Dems and GOP

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Republican Senator Roger Wicker

Republican Senator Roger Wicker, a member of a group of eight Senate hawks from both the Democratic and Republican parties leading a smear campaign against Russia, has said that “there was distress among Democrats and Republicans” after US President Joe Biden suggested that a “minor” Russian incursion in Ukraine would not trigger massive economic sanctions that he has promised.

Following the remarks, the White House raced to quickly clarify the US president's stance. On Thursday, Biden also said that any Russian movement into Ukraine “is an invasion.”

“I can tell you from private conversations that I had on the floor of the Senate shortly after the president's press conference, there was distress among Democrats and Republicans about what the president had said,” Wicker, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Greta Van Susteren in an interview to be aired on Sunday.

“We know that it was a misstatement of American policy. I think one of your competitor newscasters on one of the morning shows called it a gaffe. And I guess we all do that,” he added. “These are all too common in the Biden White House.”

Wicker was referring to comments that Biden made during a lengthy news conference on Wednesday where he suggested that a “minor” Russian incursion in Ukraine would not trigger the 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.

“It depends on what he does as to what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front,” the president said, referencing 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.

But the White House quickly walked back those comments, 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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement following Biden’s remarks.

Biden on Wednesday virtually met with eight Senate hawks from both the Democratic and Republican parties to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine amid American claims that Russia is preparing to invade the neighboring country. Moscow has rejected the accusations.

Seven of the senators who Biden spoke with on Wednesday recently returned from a trip to Ukraine, and they are again planning to visit the country.

Senators Wicker, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)  attended the meeting. All of them traveled to Ukraine.

The White House said Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also participated in the meeting.

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".


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