Published January 20, 2022
President Biden’s news conference on Wednesday was a microcosm of the reasons his presidency is on life support. Nothing better demonstrates that than his statement that the United States might tolerate a Russian “minor incursion” into Ukraine.
Official U.S. policy has been clear from the outset of the mounting geopolitical crisis. If Russia invades Ukraine, as its troop buildup near the border suggests it might, the United States and its NATO allies would impose massive economic sanctions. Reiterating that policy should have been a chip shot for the president. Instead, he issued a blunder heard round the world.
It doesn’t matter that White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a clarifying statement only moments after Biden left the stage that the United States would view any movement of Russian forces into Ukraine as an invasion. Or that Biden the next day emphasized that Russia would pay a “heavy price.” Ukrainian officials still seemed flabbergasted by the remark, and allies who were already leery of following Biden’s lead are likely nervous about where he might be taking them.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.