CNN anchor Brianna Keilar cornered Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer during a Tuesday morning interview, pressing him over whether Russia’s latest “incursion” into Ukraine actually constituted an “invasion.”
Finer said several times that Russia’s recognition of two pro-Russia regions of Ukraine — and subsequent steps taken under the guise of protecting those regions — amounted to “the beginning of an invasion,” prompting Keilar to respond: “Just call it an invasion.” In the hours after this interview transpired, however, the Biden administration appeared to pivot, officially labeling the still-unfolding situation as an “invasion.”
"An invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way," says WH Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer as Putin orders troops into Eastern Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/yvRfZJGqBY
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) February 22, 2022
After amassing some 190,000 troops along Ukraine’s border — and doing little to dispel fears of an imminent invasion — Russia announced Monday that it would officially recognize the independent status of two pro-Russia regions of Ukraine. After confirming his intention to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties promising to preserve and defend those republics — and sent troops into those regions, claiming that they were to undertake a “peacekeeping mission.”
This all comes after weeks of posturing and intelligence that suggested Putin might use a “false flag” operation to provide cover for an invasion into Ukraine, and Keilar addressed that situation with Finer on Tuesday morning’s broadcast of “New Day.”
“Look, Brianna, we think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine, and you’re already seeing the beginning of our response that we have said will be swift and severe,” Finer said. He also noted that in addition to new sanctions from the United States, Germany had announced Tuesday a plan to refuse certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“So you called this the beginning of the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Keilar pressed. “Is that different than an invasion?”
“I think latest is important here. An invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way. But Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014,” Finer said. “They’ve been occupying large pieces of Ukraine since 2014 including, although they’ve denied it, Russian troop presence in exactly the two, what they now call republics, but they’re really provinces of a sovereign Ukraine, that they recognized yesterday. So Russia is essentially making overt what it has denied for some time, which is Russian troop presence in these places and we are taking steps in response to that.”
“Why not call it an invasion?” Keilar asked. “Just call it an invasion instead of this talking point of ‘the beginning of the latest Russian invasion of Ukraine’?”
“I don’t know how much more clear I can be, Brianna. This is the beginning of an invasion,” Finer insisted.
“Okay. You could just call it an invasion,” Keilar pressed again, noting that the Biden administration had been very clear in the weeks leading up to the current situation about what they believed constituted an “invasion.”
- President Biden, January 20: “If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion. But it will be met with severe and coordinated economic response that I’ve discussed in detail with our allies as well as laid out very clearly for President Putin.”
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken, January 21: “If any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, that’s a renewed invasion. It will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”
- National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, February 6: “President Biden has spoken to the fact that if a Russian tank or a Russian troop moves across the border, that’s an invasion. That is an invasion and the result of that, from our perspective, would be the imposition of severe economic consequences.”
“I think the distinction here may have to do with the response that an invasion triggers,” Keilar tried once more. “Why not just call it an invasion?”
“I mean, again, I guess for the third or fourth time, I am calling it an invasion,” Finer conceded.
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