President Joe Biden mocked a reporter Thursday after she questioned remarks he made during a press conference Wednesday that critics claim gave Russia’s President Vladimir Putin the ‘green light’ to invade Ukraine.
Ahead of an infrastructure meeting at the White House on Thursday, Fox News correspondent Jacqui Heinrich asked the president: ‘Why are you waiting on Putin to make the first move, sir?’
‘What a stupid question,’ Biden replied after lightly chuckling.
The president has been known for lashing out at the press when he doesn’t like their questions.
The exchange came as Biden faces widespread criticism for claiming US retaliation for Russian aggression in Ukraine would depend on the details.
President Joe Biden (pictured Thursday) lashed out at a reporter who questioned the potentially catastrophic remarks he made during a press conference Wednesday that critics claim gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the ‘green light’ to invade Ukraine
During his rambling two-hour press conference on Wednesday, Biden said: ‘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 then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ he continued. ‘But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine.’
The president and top administration officials worked Thursday to clarify his seeming waffling on Russia’s aggression.
Biden reiterated 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.’
However, American politicians and world leaders are still finding the ‘minor incursion’ remark unsettling.
‘We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted.
‘Deeply troubling and dangerous,’ echoed Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican.
‘A green light for Putin,’ said Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of California, who is one of many to use that phrase.
Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich (pictured) asked the president on Thursday: ‘Why are you waiting on Putin to make the first move, sir?’ Biden replied: ‘What a stupid question’
The testy exchange comes as the president faces widespread criticism for remarks he made during a press conference Wednesday (pictured). Biden said that Russia ‘will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, but then added that ‘it depends on what it does’
The president’s latest comments came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared to meet Friday in Geneva with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a high-stakes bid to ease tensions that appears likely to fail.
Biden said the US was preparing for Russia to take action that fell outside the parameters of conventional warfare.
‘Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression – paramilitary tactics, so-called gray zone attacks and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms,’ he said.
Russian officials have said they have no intention of invading Ukraine, but the deployment of a large combat force along its borders, estimated at 100,000 troops, has created fear of war.
Moscow in turn, has accused the West of plotting ‘provocations’ in Ukraine, citing the delivery of weapons to the country by British military transports in recent days.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged Ukrainian and Western talk of an imminent Russian attack was a ‘cover for staging large-scale provocations of their own, including those of military character.’
Russia wants binding security guarantees, including a permanent prohibition on Ukrainian membership in NATO, to which Kyiv aspires, and the removal of most of the US and allied military presence in eastern Europe.
On Thursday, Biden tried to clarify his remarks by saying 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’ (Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday)
A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, Tuesday
The US and its European partners have said they are willing to consider certain less-dramatic gestures but that the Russian demands are out of the question and that Putin knows they are nonstarters, something Secretary of State Antony Blinken claims if proof of Putin’s ulterior motive.
‘So far, our good-faith gestures have been rebuffed — because, in truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases,’ Blinken said. Thursday ‘It’s about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. And at its core, it’s about Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole and free.’
Russia on Thursday announced sweeping naval maneuvers through February, some apparently in the Black Sea, involving over 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft. Separately, Spain’s defense minister said the country was sending two warships to the Black Sea with NATO approval.
Amid concerns that Putin may not be moved by threats of sanctions, Blinken made a direct appeal to the Russian people to oppose any intervention.
‘You deserve to live with security and dignity, like all people everywhere, and no one – not Ukraine, not the United States, not the countries of NATO – is seeking to jeopardize that. But what really risks your security is a pointless war with your neighbors in Ukraine, with all the costs that come with it – most of all, for the young people who will risk or even give their lives to it,’ he said.