Biden and top administration officials worked Thursday to clean up his comments. Biden stressed that if “any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion” and it would be met with a “severe and coordinated economic response.”

Short of an all-out invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin could take less dramatic action in Ukraine that would vastly complicate a U.S. and allied response. He might carry out what President Joe Biden called a “minor incursion” — perhaps a cyberattack — leaving the U.S. and Europe divided on the type and severity of economic sanctions to impose on Moscow and ways to increase support for Kyiv, AP reports.

Biden drew widespread criticism for saying Wednesday that retaliating for Russian aggression in Ukraine would depend on the details. “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.

Biden and top administration officials worked Thursday to clean up his comments. Biden stressed that if “any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion” and it would be met with a “severe and coordinated economic response.”

But even if the “minor incursion” remark was seen as a gaffe, it touched on a potentially problematic issue: While the U.S. and allies agree on a strong response to a Russian invasion, it’s unclear how they would respond to Russian aggression that falls short of that, like a cyberattack or boosted support for pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.
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