The White House on Tuesday began referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term — a red line that President Joe Biden has said would result in the US levying severe sanctions against Moscow.
Several European leaders said earlier in the day that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognized their independence — but some indicated it was not yet the long-feared, full-fledged invasion.
But the White House signalled a shift in its own position.
“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser. He said “latest” was important. “An invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way.”
The White House decided to begin referring to Russia’s actions as an “invasion” because of the situation on the ground, according to a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do. After assessing Russian troop movements, it became clear it was a new invasion, the official added.