Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Says Biden’s ‘Minor Incursion’ Comment Underestimates Russia’s Intention

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister, reacting to President Biden’s comments Wednesday playing down a potential “minor incursion” by Russia, said any attack on his country should be treated equally.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday responded to Mr. Biden’s comment on Wednesday, in which he suggested that Western nations were not in tandem on how to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the event of a “minor incursion” on Ukraine. His statement was later clarified by the White House.

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Speaking of minor and full incursions or full invasion, you can not be half-aggressive. You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive, ”Mr. Kuleba said. “We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression has been there since 2014. This is the fact. ”

Mr. Kuleba added that he believes Mr. Biden is sincere in his interest to help and work with Ukraine.

“We in Ukraine have no doubt that President Biden is committed to Ukraine… and he wants to prevent the conflict and deter Russia,” Mr. Kuleba said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met in Kyiv on Wednesday.


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/ Associated Press

At a news conference marking his first year in office, Mr. Biden said Russia would be held accountable if it invades Ukraine, adding, “It depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do. ”

He said that if Russia invades Ukraine, “it is going to be a disaster,” and the US and its allies would respond with measures including economic sanctions.

The White House said in a statement following Mr. Biden’s remarks saying that if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, it would be regarded as “a renewed invasion,” and would be met with swift consequences from the US and its allies.

President Biden said on Wednesday that the US is ready to unleash sanctions against Russia if President Vladimir Putin makes a move against Ukraine. Biden also laid out a possible diplomatic resolution. Photo: Susan Walsh / Associated Press

Mr. Biden on Wednesday reiterated his administration’s view that it remains unclear whether Mr. Putin has decided whether or not to invade Ukraine.

What would constitute a minor incursion could be debated among Western allies, Mr. Biden said. Among members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “there are differences,” he said, adding that he was trying to ensure “everybody’s on the same page.”

Differences have emerged among NATO allies in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing the European Union for years to develop its own capability on defense, and France’s presidency of the bloc has given him a new lever to advance the idea. Such plans, however, have been greeted with little enthusiasm by Germany and other major European economies, which have been happy to let the US take the lead in deterring Russian aggression on the bloc’s eastern flank.

Write to Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com

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