Joe Biden's First Foreign Policy Test After The Afghan Debacle Is Going Badly

President Joe Biden's first foreign policy test since America's messy exit from Afghanistan has been tumultuous so far.

Biden's gaffe last week about a Russian invasion of Ukraine put European allies on edge. America's key European ally, Germany, broke with NATO over the weekend. And on Monday, Ukraine questioned the U.S. decision to pull diplomatic staff's family out of Kyiv.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops have built up along the border of Ukraine, sparking fears of a conflict in Europe. Western powers, including the U.S., have repeatedly warned Russia about invading.

Although the Kremlin denies it is planning an attack, it says that NATO support for Ukraine and the build up of weaponry there is a growing threat to Russia's western border.

Some 90 tonnes of US "lethal aid," including ammunition for "front-line defenders," arrived in Ukraine on Saturday.

Tensions are high after Biden raised eyebrows last week by making a gaffe when discussing the situation. On June 19, the U.S. President appeared to downplay the potential for a "minor incursion" by Russia against Ukraine.

In a press conference, Biden said: "It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera," he said. "But if they actually do what they're capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine."

The comments did little to calm nerves around Europe, with some critics suggesting that Biden's remarks seemed to invite Russia to invade its neighbor.

There was backlash from Ukraine, with the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeting in response: "We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones."

The White House also went into full damage control mode following Biden's comments. Officials said that the president had been referring to cyberattacks and paramilitary activities, and not Russian troops crossing the border.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned Russia against invading Ukraine on Sunday.

"In the event that there is a renewed Russian incursion, Russian forces going into Ukraine, there is going to be a swift, a severe, and united response," Blinken told NBC.

White House chief of staff Ronald Alan Klain said Friday that Biden "has made his views very clear" to Putin and that any move by the Russian military across the border will be seen as an invasion.

He said it would be met with "a very severe economic response from the United States and our allies" and that a Russian invasion would be "a horrible mistake."

Ukraine has also criticized the U.S. State Department for ordering some family members of its embassy in Ukraine to evacuate. The U.K. has also ordered some its diplomats to leave.

On Monday, Ukraine's foreign ministry called the move "premature" and the result of "excessive caution."

"In this situation, it is important to soberly assess the risks and stay calm," it said.

Meanwhile, Germany broke with Nato over the weekend, rejecting calls to provide Kyiv with weapons despite U.K. and the U.S. reiterated their commitment to helping Ukraine's military under the threat of Russia.

Adding to this, on Saturday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, the head of Germany's navy resigned after coming under fire for arguing that Russia and its president Vladimir Putin "deserved respect."

When elected president in November 2020, Biden promised to restore confidence in U.S. alliances and its stature on the world stage.

But this week, has raised question marks over brining those aims to fruition.

Following the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, Biden's approval rating suffered significantly. It currently shows little sign of bouncing back.

If Russia invades Ukraine, however, it won't be the first time.

In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, following protests in Ukraine that toppled the country's pro-Russian president. Since then, Ukrainian military has been fighting a bloody conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine. An estimated 14,000 have been killed since the fighting began.

U.S. President Joe Biden on stage.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the 90th Winter Meeting of USCM in Washington, D.C. on January 21, 2022. Biden’s first foreign policy test since the America’s exit from Afghanistan has been a tumultuous affair so far. Alex Wong/Getty Images