A top adviser to the Biden administration admitted Tuesday that Ukraine is under “invasion” by Russia after the White House initially hedged when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine Monday night.
“An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway,” deputy White House national security adviser Jon Finer told CNN. Finer added that “Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014 … I am calling it an invasion.”
The description of Russia’s troop movements matters because President Biden has threatened ruinous economic sanctions against Russia if it “invades” Ukraine — even though, as Finer referenced, Russia has propped up separatist groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since 2014.
“We’ve always envisioned waves of sanctions that would unfold over time,” Finer told CNN. “Today, we have already begun those actions in response and we have more that we will be rolling out in really just a matter of hours.”
A senior US official on a White House-organized call was pressed Monday on whether Russia’s open deployment of “peacekeeping” troops into Donetsk and Luhansk counts as an invasion if they don’t go beyond rebel-held territory.
After noting Russian troops had long been present covertly in those areas, the official told reporters he “reminded people that separate from that consideration [of new sanctions] that there had been Russian troops in the Donbas for eight years now.”
Biden on Monday barred Americans from doing business with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic after Putin recognized their independence in a feared prelude to larger-scale war.
The German government said Tuesday it would block operation of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which was poised to begin piping fuel directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea rather than via Ukraine.
Biden repeatedly threatened “severe” sanctions against Moscow in recent months, but US officials reportedly decided against kicking Russia out of the SWIFT global financial system in retribution for any invasion.