Press secretary Jen Psaki rebuffed NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell for suggesting that the Biden administration’s plan to manage Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine was essentially to “just watch this get worse.”
During Friday afternoon’s briefing, O’Donnell pressed Psaki on President Joe Biden’s strategy going forward, appearing to ask whether the administration had effectively limited itself by pledging not to involved American military service members in the defense of Ukraine.
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“Can you give us any sense of a timeline or a triggering event that would result in this policy change regarding Russian oil and any decisions that may be forthcoming? Is that imminent? Or is there something that — you know, is there an event — an outside event that you’re waiting for?” O’Donnell asked.
“I wouldn’t say, Kelly, it’s an outside event,” Psaki replied. “I think our continuing concern continues to be — you know, everybody wants to hold President Putin and the Russian leadership accountable. Everybody supports the efforts that the Pres — President Biden has been leading around the world to take — put in place crippling financial sanctions, and they have had an enormous impact.”
Psaki went on to say that the administration was trying not to take steps that could increase the cost of gas to the American people while also attempting to stay in step with allies.
“Can you speak to how the President has steeled himself, hardened himself, if you will?” O’Donnell continued. “He’s made a commitment not to put American troops in a military position in Ukraine. You’ve outlined all the steps the U.S. and allies are taking. But he’s also watching what is happening, as are many Americans who are concerned about the atrocities that are taking place, the loss of life, the civilians that are being affected. Does the U.S. just watch this get worse? Is that what we should all be prepared for?”
“I would just argue we’re hardly ‘watching,'” Psaki shot back. “We have been — we have provided a billion dollars in military and security assistance, including a range of defensive weapons that we have expedited delivery to the Ukrainian leadership and Ukrainian military. We have been the largest provider of economic and humanitarian assistance. We have rallied the world to stand up against President Putin. We are not ‘watching.’ The President is leading the world in responding to this.”
“However, he is not going to put U.S. military men and women serving on the front lines of battle in Ukraine to fight Russia,” Psaki concluded. “That has never chan — that has never been his plan, never been his policy, and he has no intention of doing that.”
The Biden administration has also confirmed that, despite multiple requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the United States will not assist in creating a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine. Several administration officials have explained that because it could require the United States to shoot down Russian planes, it would result in an immediate escalation.