The crisis between Russia and Ukraine worsened on Tuesday, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared two rebel territories in eastern Ukraine to be independent states. The gravity of the crisis is undeniable, as is its potential to damage millions of Americans’ lives.
Early Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden addressed the situation from a tense White House, while Republicans voiced condemnation and caution.
The following are the key takeaways from a frantic day.
The I-word is used by Biden
The use of the phrase “invasion” by Biden was the most notable aspect of his White House remarks. He went on to say that Putin’s recent actions amounted to the “start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The White House has avoided using the term in describing Russian actions the night before, likely because it intensifies the situation and necessitates a strong response. Biden spoke for nine minutes from the White House East Room, taking no questions from reporters. He highlighted fresh measures aimed at Russian sovereign debt that would “shut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” according to him.
Is Russia conducting a proxy war in Ukraine? Tensions in eastern Ukraine have risen dramatically after Russia backed separatists engaged in multiple shelling incidents in Donbas.
He also stated that Russian leaders, their families, and two Russian financial institutions would be sanctioned. Biden is seeking to make it plain to the Kremlin and the rest of the world that the Russian announcement on the separatist areas — and any military moves it might undertake there — will not be tolerated.
That’s significant in and of itself, but it’s also an attempt to erase the memory of Biden’s error last month at a press conference in which he said Russia could get away with a “small incursion” and face no retaliation.
As Trump and other Republicans weigh in, schisms emerge
Former President Donald Trump, who has been unusually silent on the crisis, jumped into the debate on Tuesday, sparking outrage.
Donald Trump has never been shy about his admiration for Vladimir Putin. And that was on full display in a radio interview where Trump lavished praise on Putin for his strategy in Ukraine.
Trump called Putin “extremely savvy” and lauded the Russian president’s decision to recognise rebel parts of Ukraine as “genius” in an appearance on radio’s “Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.”
Biden’s commitment to Ukraine — and democracy — will be put to the test
“By the way, this would never have occurred with us,” Trump continued. It would not have occurred to me if I had been in office.”It was the latest intervention by a former president whose relations with both Russia and Ukraine have been strained for years.
Trump notably endorsed Putin against US intelligence agencies at a 2018 press conference in Helsinki, Finland, in addition to Russian participation in the 2016 presidential election. On that occasion, the then-president refused to support the notion that Russia had interfered, instead stating that Putin’s denials had been “very robust and powerful.”
The GOP is split for support of Ukraine vs. Russia, with many prominent conservative figures including Donald Trump appearing to side with Vladimir Putin. Joy Reid and her panel discuss.
Biden was also chastised by other Republicans. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Minority Leader, attempted to link the issue to the tumultuous US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. McConnell claimed in Kentucky that Putin would not have been so aggressive if the US had not “suddenly withdrawn from Afghanistan.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Biden’s energy strategy had “encouraged” Putin to become more combative on the world stage in an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.” Rubio further claimed that Putin “knows how to deal with someone like Joe Biden” because he has “long dealt with presidents like that, who operate within the limits of orthodoxy.”
Even though both Biden and his critics claim to be tough on Russia, comments like these show that there will be no bipartisanship on this situation.
So far, the Western unity has remained intact
In recent months, Biden’s White House advisers have emphasised his achievement in building a Western alliance to fight Putin. So far, it’s holding up.
The decision by Germany to suspend the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline for the time being was one of the first big developments on Tuesday. In light of “recent developments,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government needed to “reassess” the future of the Russian pipeline.
Boris Johnson, the UK’s struggling Prime Minister, issued penalties against five Russian banks as well as a few significant individuals. A following phone discussion with French President Emmanuel Macron found the two agreeing to “continue to work in lockstep,” according to the prime minister’s office. The West’s unity will be put to the test in the coming days, but it’s off to a good start, which is reassuring for Biden.
Biden cautions that the pain will be felt by all Americans
One of the major unknowns regarding the current crisis is how it will affect domestic politics in the United States. During his White House comments, Biden warned Americans about the impending economic downturn. “Defending freedom will have costs for us as well, here at home. We need to be honest about that,” he said. At the very least, the crisis is likely to raise already-high gas prices, adding to inflationary pressures and supply chain issues.
Joe Biden has said he is ‘convinced’ that Vladimir Putin has ‘made the decision’ to invade Ukraine – an invasion that might come in the next days, based on US intelligence.
Then there’s the financial market impact. On Tuesday, the major American stock indices fell precipitously once more, with the S & P 500 entering official correction zone, meaning it is now down 10% from its peak. Biden stated that he is already trying to stabilise global energy supply, claiming that this will “blow down petrol costs.”
Even so, a president who is already dealing with high inflation and low support ratings must be concerned about the crisis’s home consequences.
Things will get worse before they improve
Despite all of the rhetoric from Washington and elsewhere in the West, Putin has shown no signs of backing down thus far. The penalties imposed by their governments were referred to as the “first tranche” by both the US president and the British prime minister.
One of the few certainties in an overall situation that is so unpredictable and unclear is that there will be more tensions, sanctions, and agony to come.
‘This Is Genius’: Trump enters the Biden- Putin cold war