White House stops calling Russian incursion 'imminent,' now using 'could invade at any time'

The Pentagon spokesman on Tuesday that Putin could move "imminently" against Ukraine.

Published: February 2, 2022 7:05pm

Updated: February 2, 2022 7:20pm

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden Administration is no longer going to describe the possible Russian invasion of Ukraine as "imminent," despite the fact that one day prior, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian President Vladimir Putin "could move imminently."

Biden administration officials repeatedly have called a Russian invasion "imminent," as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the use of the word.

"I used that once. I think others have used that once," Psaki said during her press briefing Wednesday. 

"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," she explained.

"I would say the vast majority of times I've talked about it we said he could invade at any time. That's true. We still don't know that he's made a decision," the press secretary said hours after President Joe Biden ordered the Pentagon to deploy 3,000 U.S. service members to defend European allies.

"I used it once last week," Psaki noted. "I haven't in over a week."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday said that Putin could "could move imminently -- at any time."

Politico published an article last week titled "Why 'imminent' pisses Zelenskyy off." Sources told the outlet that while the Ukrainian president is angry at the Biden administration, the biggest problem may be that "imminent" cannot be directly translated into Ukrainian. The closest word to "imminent" is Неминуче, meaning "inevitable." Politico explained that when a Biden official may mean "soon," when translated, Zelensky hears that an invasion will happen.

Psaki defended the use of "imminent" on Jan. 25. 

"'Imminent' has a pretty intense meaning, doesn't it?" she asked a reporter during a press briefing before affirming that the White House believed invasion was still imminent.

Two days later, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked if using words such as "imminent… may not be helpful and may cause panic."  

"I do not think us voicing our concerns regarding what Moscow may well have in store is bringing us any closer to conflict," Price responded. "The only thing that is bringing us closer to conflict are the moves and the measures that we have seen from the Russian Federation."

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