Politics Wicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties
Talks with Russia must prioritize Nord Stream 2 to deter Putin, Ukraine's Naftogaz CEO says
The CEO of Ukrainian state energy giant Naftogaz says it is absurd for Nord Stream 2 not to be among the top priorities of international talks with the Kremlin.His comments come shortly after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday. It was the second high-level meeting this week between Western officials and Russia after high-profile talks between the U.S. and Kremlin officials on Monday. A further meeting is taking place at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna Thursday.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said that "there was distress among Democrats and Republicans" after President Biden suggested during a lengthy press conference this week that Russia would face smaller repercussions for a "minor incursion" in Ukraine.
Following the remarks, the White House raced to quickly clarify the president's stance.
"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.
U.S. Should Support Insurgency in Ukraine if Russia Invades: Mitt Romney
Putin "has to understand that the consequences are going to be significant," the Republican senator said Sunday.Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked whether Romney, if Russia invades Ukraine, backed the idea "of us supporting an insurgency, basically what we did to the Soviets in Afghanistan?"
"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, who was among a bipartisan group of senators to visit Ukraine this week, was referring to comments that Biden made during a nearly two hour press conference on Wednesday.
"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.
EXPLAINER: What are US military options to help Ukraine?
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is not planning to answer a further Russian invasion of Ukraine by sending combat troops. But he could pursue a range of less dramatic yet still risky military options, including supporting a post-invasion Ukrainian resistance. The rationale for not directly joining a Russia-Ukraine war is simple. The United States has no treaty obligation to Ukraine, and war with Russia would be an enormous gamble, given its potential for expanding in Europe, destabilizing the region, and escalating to the frightening point of risking a nuclear exchange. Doing too little has its risks, too.
Video: No progress seen after Russia-US talks over Ukraine (Associated Press)
But the White House quickly walked back those comments, arguing that any military advancement by Russia into Ukraine would be considered an "invasion."
"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.
Biden himself also clarified his remarks on Thursday before the start of an infrastructure event, noting, "I've been absolutely clear with President Putin. He has no misunderstanding. If any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion."
U.S. rushes weapons into Ukraine as Biden predicts a Russian invasion
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is trying to keep NATO allies on the "same page" after Mr. Biden said it was his "guess" that Putin would order forces to "move in" to Ukraine."He has to do something," Mr. Biden said during a White House news conference, warning that if Putin did decide to invade his neighbor, Russia would suffer "consequential" loss of life. The president didn't elaborate on the level of military assistance the U.S. might offer Ukraine in the face of an invasion, but it came as his administration worked with NATO allies to bolster Ukraine's forces — and quickly.
Wicker told Van Susteren during their interview that after the group of senators came back from Ukraine, they spoke with Biden and other officials in the skiff, a secure room in the Capitol. Other lawmakers who traveled to Ukraine included Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
He said the morning they got back, they met with Biden, counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
"I can tell you, in terms of resolve and willingness to say we are going to respond if this occurs, the delegation of four Democrats and three Republicans was unanimous. There's very little distance between us," Wicker said.
The Mississippi Republican noted that different options should be considered by the president in the event of a Russian invasion into Ukraine, including sanctioning the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
"I think Putin would be able to get around it in a few months, but temporarily it would be a crippling blow to the Russian economy. And I think it's something we shouldn't rule out," Wicker said.
"As a matter of fact, I don't think the president should take anything off the table."
Biden Says Russian Invasion of Ukraine Could Be 'Largest Invasion Since WWII' .
President Joe Biden again warned Russia of severe consequences if it invades Ukraine, saying the military operation would have worldwide effects.Biden again underscored the gravity of the tense situation at the border between the two Eastern European countries, where Russia has amassed 100,000 troops in possible preparation of an invasion of the former Soviet republic.