President Joe Biden holds an Infrastructure Implementation Task Force meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 20 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday attempted to clarify his stance on a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took issue with comments made during a U.S. presidential briefing.
Biden said Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" for any invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
Russia has amassed at least 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine amid tensions between the two former Soviet countries.
Biden addressed the military buildup Wednesday during a news conference, saying Russia would face a "severe cost" if its military invades Ukraine. The U.S. president, though, drew a distinction between a potential "minor incursion" and a stronger invasion.
"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," Biden said Wednesday. "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, etc., but if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces they've amassed on the border it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine and our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy."
Zelensky said Thursday, though, that no invasion into Ukraine would be considered "minor."
"We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations," he tweeted. "Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power."
Speaking ahead of a meeting on implementing last year's infrastructure legislation, Biden sought to clarify that no matter the size of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its allies would stand against Moscow.
"I've been absolutely clear with President [Vladimir] Putin," Biden said. "He has no misunderstanding. If any -- any -- assembled Russian units move across Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.
"But it will 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.
"Let there be no doubt at all: If Putin makes this choice, Russia will pay a heavy price."
U.S. intelligence officials indicated last week that Russia may be planning a false-flag operation in Ukraine to justify an invasion of its neighbor. The officials said Russia placed operatives trained in urban warfare inside Ukraine to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian proxy forces.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., discusses President Joe Biden's first year in office during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo