President Biden Belatedly Remembers the ‘Little Green Men’

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

This afternoon, President Biden attempted to un-do the damage from his remarks from yesterday’s press conference, insisting that what he meant to say is that the U.S. and NATO would treat a “minor incursion” as a serious act of aggression.

“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin.  He has no misunderstanding.  If any — any — assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.  But — and it would be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies, as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.

But there is no doubt — let there be no doubt at all that if Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price.

It is also not the only scenario we need to be prepared for: Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression in paramilitary tactics, so-called “gray-zone” attacks, and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms.

Remember when they moved into the Donbas with “Little Green Men”?  They weren’t — they were dealing with those who were Russian sympathizers and said that Russia had no — nobody in there.

Well, that includes “Little Green Men” in uniforms, as well as cyberattack.

We have to be ready to respond to these as well — and decisively — in a united way, with a range of tools at our disposal.

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister said this morning that he’s confident of our support and resolve.  And he has a right to be.”

I’d like to think the president’s revised statement, mentioning the “little green men” twice, means Biden read today’s Morning Jolt, but it probably just means his staffers reminded him of all of the things he should have said yesterday but didn’t. Between Jen Psaki’s issued statement last night, Kamala Harris’ statement this morning, and this do-over by the president, it appears the White House broke out of their reflexive “all is well” denial and recognized that Biden had unwittingly encouraged the precise scenario he was trying to prevent.

Yesterday Greg and I had the chance to interview former senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, usually a foreign policy hawk. Lieberman said, “the Biden administration has been talking tough with Putin, threatening actions, which are significant, both economic and military, although I think they could even threaten and do more. But the question is, does Putin believe them?”

Which presidential statement will Putin believe? Biden speaking off-the-cuff Wednesday? Or the revised statement he made today?

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