On Tuesday, a senior White House official accused Russia of staging an “invasion” of Ukraine by moving troops into the separatist Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The words by Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer indicate a rhetorical turnaround by the Biden administration, which resisted labelling Russia’s incursions into Ukraine as an invasion on Monday after warning for months about Moscow’s military buildup and rising hostility.
“We believe this is the start of an invasion, Russia’s latest incursion into Ukraine,” Finer said in CNN, alluding to Russian troops marching into the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, both of which are controlled by Russia-backed militants.
“I believe the word ‘latest’ is essential here, Finer stated. “An invasion is an invasion, and that is exactly what is taking place. However, Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014, when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
When asked if Russia’s activities were an invasion or simply the start of a fresh foray into Ukraine, Finer stated, “I don’t know how much clearer I can be…. This is the start of an invasion.”
“I mean, by the third or fourth time, I think I’m calling it an invasion,” Finer remarked. Other members of Biden’s administration, however, have been hesitant to make that difference this week.
On a conference call with reporters on Monday, a senior administration official refused to term Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troop deployments an invasion, saying: “Russian soldiers moving into Donbas would not constitute a new step.”
For the past eight years, Russia has had a military in the Donbas.”
Following Putin’s decision to formally recognize the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk areas, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday that expanded on the sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014.
The newest sanctions imposed by the United States ban new US investment in the breakaway regions, imports and exports from the regions, and financial and property transactions as assessed by the Treasury Department.
On Tuesday, Finer hinted that “further economic sanctions” against Russia would be revealed within the next few hours.
“We reserve the right to take other steps, including new penalties, if Russia continues to move forward.” That has always been our strategy,” Finer explained.
“We envisioned waves of penalties that we would impose on Russia if and if it continues to take measures toward war, which we believe they are doing.”
In addition to the US penalties, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated on Tuesday that the Nord Stream 2 project would be halted in response to Russia’s incursion.
The US had stated that if Russia pushed troops into Ukraine, the controversial project, which would bring cheap natural gas from Russia to Germany via a 764-mile-long pipeline under the Baltic Sea, would be halted.