(Reuters) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that U.S. President Joe Biden’s “minor incursion” comment was not a green light to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Not at all,” Stoltenberg told CNN in an interview when asked if Biden’s remarks gave a green light to Russian aggression.
“Russia will be held accountable if it invades – and it depends on what it does,” Biden told reporters a day earlier. “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and what to not do,” Biden said https://www.reuters.com/world/blinken-arrives-berlin-ukraine-talks-with-european-allies-2022-01-20 on Wednesday.
Biden’s comments at a White House news conference injected uncertainty into how the West would respond should Russian President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine, prompting the White House later to seek to clarify what Biden meant.
Shortly after Biden’s remarks, the White House rowed back from any suggestion that a smaller-scale Russian military incursion would meet a weaker U.S. response.
Stoltenberg also told CNN that allies were stepping up support for Ukraine, looking at Russia-related sanctions and “considering to increase deployments of NATO troops in the eastern part of the alliance.” He added that Russia has been invited to a series of meetings to find a political solution.
Russia presented the West with a list of security demands at talks last week that produced no breakthrough. Russian officials have denied planning to invade, but the Kremlin has massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham)