Biden imposes new sanctions on Russia: ‘America stands up to bullies’
President takes aim at Russia’s largest banks and companies but is emphatic US troops will not engage in conflict in Ukraine
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Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a fresh round of what he said would be crippling sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, declaring that Vladimir Putin “chose this war” and that he and his country would bear the consequences.
The harsh new sanctions target Russia’s largest banks and companies, effectively cutting them off from western financial markets, while imposing restrictions on the exports of advanced technology used to power the country’s military and tech sector.
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war,” the US president said. “And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
Part of a coordinated response, Biden said the measures taken by the US and allied nations around the world were meant to “maximize a long-term impact” on Russia, extracting severe costs on Moscow immediately and over time for what Biden called its “brutal assault” on a sovereign nation.
Biden warned that Putin’s “desire for empire” extended beyond Ukraine, saying the Russian leader sought to re-create the former Soviet Union.
But the president was emphatic in his vow that US troops would not engage Russia in Ukraine, but he again affirmed the US would defend “every inch of Nato territory”. The commitment was underscored by an announcement that Biden had authorized the deployment of additional US troops to Germany as part of Nato’s response.
As Biden addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House, the Ukrainian government reported mounting casualties as Russian troops unleashed a punishing offensive on the nation, advancing on the nation’s capital, Kyiv.
Biden’s remarks came hours after he held a virtual meeting with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy and Japan. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel, and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg were also in attendance. Earlier on Thursday, he convened a meeting of the US national security council.
In the afternoon, Biden spent an hour on the phone with the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, briefing them on the situation in Ukraine and the administration’s response to date.
The White House has been threatening severe sanctions for weeks, in hopes of deterring Putin from waging war on Ukraine. Earlier this week, when Putin made clear he intended to invade, the White House levied an initial “tranche” of sanctions in response. The penalties imposed on Thursday were designed to further destabilize Russia’s financial system while starving the country of technology critical to its economy and military, such as semiconductors.
The US Treasury said the latest round of sanctions against Russia would impact nearly 80% of all banking assets in Russia, fundamentally threatening its economy and weakening the Kremlin’s geopolitical posture.
“Treasury is taking serious and unprecedented action to deliver swift and severe consequences to the Kremlin and significantly impair their ability to use the Russian economy and financial system to further their malign activity,” said Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary.
Touting the unity among allies and partners, Biden said the sanctions would limit “Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen to be part of the global economy”.
But they are not as forceful as some elected officials in the US and Ukraine have called for, steps that would include removing Russia from the Swift international banking system and targeting Russia’s energy sector or leveling sanctions against Putin personally.
“We demand the disconnection of Russia from Swift, the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and other effective steps to stop the aggressor,” the Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a tweet.
On Thursday, congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, called on the US to “dramatically escalate” its response to Moscow and endorsed calls to remove Russia from the international banking system and its ability to access western capital.
Biden argued that time was needed to the current round of sanctions to take their desired effect, and said the US was “prepared” to impose more severe penalties on Russia.
The president defended his administration’s response. For several weeks, the US has declassified and made public Putin’s secret plans, while moving quickly to blame Russia for a series of cyber-attacks against Ukrainian banks and agencies. The purpose of the approach was to expose the Kremlin’s justification for war as baseless, he said.
“Now, it’s unfolding largely as we predicted,” the president said.
Asked by reporters whether he was consulting China to isolate Russia, Biden would not comment. He also said he was working to persuade India to join the western-led push against Russia.
Biden said he had no plans to talk to Putin.
During the White House briefing on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki downplayed the threat of a nuclear attack, after Putin warned that countries that interfered with Russia’s invasion would face “consequences you have never encountered in your history”. Some analysts interpreted Putin’s comments as a warning that he was prepared to use the country’s nuclear arsenal.
“We don’t see any increased threat in that regard at the present time,” Psaki said.
As thousands of Ukrainians flee the country, Psaki said the US was prepared to welcome Ukrainian refugees to the US, but expected that the vast majority of them would prefer to remain in Europe. She said the US was working to support humanitarian efforts in neighboring countries, where the European Union is preparing for a large number of displaced people.
Psaki also said the US was “outraged” by “credible” reports that Russian soldiers were holding staff hostage at the Chernobyl nuclear site, near Kyiv.
“This unlawful and dangerous hostage-taking, which could upend the routine civil service efforts required to maintain and protect the nuclear waste facilities, is obviously incredibly alarming and deeply concerning,” she said. “We condemn it and request their release.”
The US president also urged resolve among the American people, who he said would likely face economic consequences as a result of what Biden called Putin’s “naked aggression”. The US has also warned government agencies and operators of critical infrastructure to take pre-emptive actions to safeguard against a potential Russian cyber-attack.
In a stark contrast to Donald Trump, who has repeatedly assailed Biden during the escalating crisis while badly mangling the facts surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Barack Obama called on “every American, regardless of party” to support the president’s efforts to punish the Kremlin.
Echoing Biden, Obama acknowledged that there would likely be economic consequences for Americans, but that it was a “price we should be willing to pay to take a stand on the side of freedom”.
As Biden has warned throughout his presidency, he said democracies around the world were being tested and threatened by Putin’s “sinister vision for the future of our world”. He said there was never a question that the US would respond to Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
“This aggression cannot go unanswered,” Biden said. “America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom. This is who we are.”
- Joe Biden
- US politics
- Vladimir Putin
- Foreign policy