Feb 2, 2022 - World

U.S. stops describing Russian invasion as "imminent" after Ukraine pushback

Ukrainian President Zelensky with President Biden at the White House. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration is no longer using the word "imminent" to describe the threat of a further Russian invasion of Ukraine, citing concerns that it implied Moscow had made a decision.

Why it matters: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in both a phone call with President Biden and at a public press conference last week, criticized Western warnings about Russia's military buildup for causing a "panic" that was destabilizing Ukraine's economy.

  • "The image that mass media creates is that we have troops on the roads, we have mobilization, people are leaving for places. That's not the case. We don't need this panic," Zelensky told reporters.
  • The dispute may have been caused by translation issues: There is no exact word for "imminent" in Ukrainian, and Zelensky may have been left with the impression that the U.S. viewed the invasion as "inevitable," according to Politico.

What they're saying: "I used it once. I think others have used that once, and we stopped using it because I think it sent a message that we weren't intending to send, which was that we knew that President Putin had made a decision," Psaki said at a press briefing Wednesday.

  • "I would say the vast majority of times I've talked about it, I've said he could invade 'at any time,'" Psaki added.

UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with NPR this week that the administration's assessment is not that a Russian invasion is "imminent," as the U.S. is "still pursuing a diplomatic solution to give the Russians an off ramp."

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