Conservative commentators, politicians distort Biden's remarks on tanks for Ukraine
Conservative politicians and commentators claim US President Joe Biden defied his own warnings about triggering a third World War with Russia by delivering tanks to Ukraine. But the quote shared as proof has been edited to distort its meaning; Biden said in March 2022 that having "planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews" would constitute "World War III."
"Now Biden is doing what he said 10 months ago would lead to World War III. He is sending in American tanks," said former president Donald Trump, who is gearing up for the 2024 election, in a video tweeted February 1, 2023.
The comments from Trump and others, including Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, follow Biden's January 25 announcement that the US will send 31 top-of-the-line tanks to Ukraine. Biden described it as the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion.
Other social media users are sharing a meme that juxtaposes the president's pledge with an apparent Biden quote from March 11, 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
"The idea that we’re going to send in tanks to Ukraine, that’s called World War III,” the supposed quote says.
One tweet sharing the image received more than 19.5 million views. Twitter CEO Elon Musk replied: "The war is escalating quickly."
The meme also circulated across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, shared by conservative figures such as activist Jack Posobiec, Newsmax host Carl Higbie and Sid Miller, the Republican agriculture commissioner for the state of Texas.
But the image omits a key portion of Biden's 2022 remarks.
Here is what the president told the House Democratic caucus, according to footage of the remarks and the official White House transcript:
"We're showing a strength, and we’ll never falter. But, look, the idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand -- and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say -- that’s called 'World War Three.' OK?"
Biden vowed elsewhere in the address that "we will not fight the third World War in Ukraine."
However, he said the US would support the war-torn nation while maintaining its "sacred obligation" to defend other NATO countries near Russia. Ukraine is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"The President's remarks mentioned planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, not giving Ukraine tanks to help them defend themselves against Russia’s invasion," Sean Savett, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, told AFP in an email.
Savett said that, in line with his 2022 comments, Biden's recent announcement that the US will supply tanks to Ukraine included language about "how giving Ukraine tanks will help Ukraine defend themselves and how they are not an offensive threat to Russia."
Biden said during his January 25 remarks: "That’s what this is about: helping Ukraine defend and protect Ukrainian land. It is not an offensive threat to Russia."
AFP has previously debunked other posts clipping Biden's words out of context here and here.