Instead, Biden’s remark — which he said fell short of an official legal declaration — reflected his escalating outrage at scenes of brutality emerging as Russian troops leave Ukrainian cities ravaged.

The comment came before an expected move by the US on Wednesday to unveil its latest tranche of military assistance to Ukraine, a package that comes in at $800 million and included helicopters, armored vehicles, drones and other weapons.

And Biden’s remark drew immediate praise from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom Biden spoke by telephone for about an hour Wednesday.

“Assessed Russian war crimes. Discussed additional package of defensive and possible macro-financial aid. Agreed to enhance sanctions,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter afterward.

Yet Biden’s assertion that genocide is underway — his first time using that term to describe the savagery in Ukraine — did not appear to alter his long-held stance that US forces will not directly intervene to end the suffering.

Speaking in Iowa, Biden made it clear he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is committing genocide but said he would “let the lawyers decide” to use that designation internationally.

“It sure seems that way to me,” Biden said. He cited mounting evidence over the past week for his determination, saying it had become “clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be Ukrainian.”

Still, by noting the lawyers would make the ultimate determination, Biden was signaling the US is not yet registering a formal declaration of genocide, the officials said.

“President Biden spoke from his heart when he called what we are seeing in Ukraine genocide by the Russian Federation and its forces,” said Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state for political affairs, on CNN. “In order to make a formal US government policy decision with regard to genocide, we have a process of collecting evidence over time and we are continuing to do that.”

Nuland predicted the US would eventually find a genocide taking place in Ukraine and make the declaration officially. But she noted, “There’s certain legal obligations that come with a formal determination of genocide.”

The US has only made eight formal determinations of genocide, most recently applying that label to Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya minority.

That process took years, including a considerable amount of evidence-gathering and a lengthy back-and-forth between administration lawyers and officials over the potential ramification of applying the label. Similarly, the declaration in 2021 that China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims in the western Xinjiang province was preceded by extensive deliberations among State Department lawyers.

In both cases, political considerations came into play, according to people familiar with the matter. Lawyers were initially wary that China’s actions in Xinjiang rose to the level of genocide, though Biden reaffirmed the label when he took office.

And some officials raised concerns that labeling the atrocities in Myanmar a genocide could drive the country close to Beijing, though those concerns ultimately lost out to pressure from human rights advocates and US lawmakers to make the designation last month.

Before Biden’s comments on Tuesday, his aides held up the…

Source: Biden’s ‘genocide’ declaration not expected to trigger immediate changes to US policy