Biden Says Putin ‘Chose War Without Cause,’ Slaps Russia With Stiff New Sanctions
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday afternoon that in attacking Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin had “committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace” by choosing to wage “a war without cause.”
“Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months, as we’ve been saying all along,” Biden said as he appeared before a throng of reporters in the East Room of the White House.
“He moved more than 175,000 troops and military equipment to positions along the Ukrainian border. He moved blood supplies into position and built a field hospital, which tells you all you need to know about his intentions all along,” the president continued, adding, “He rejected every good faith effort the United States and our allies and partners made to address our mutual security concerns through dialogue to avoid needless conflict and avert human suffering.
“This aggression cannot go on,” Biden vowed. “America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom. This is who we are.”
In answer to a few questions from reporters, the president said he currently has no plans to meet with the Russian president, and he also dismissed Putin’s threat that those who oppose him will “face consequences you have never seen.”
Asked if Putin was threatening nuclear war, Biden said, “I don’t know what he meant.”
The president also pushed back at the assertion that he somehow underestimated the Russian president in the lead-up to the crisis.
“I made clear he is an adversary, I didn’t underestimate him,” Biden said. “He has much larger ambitions in Ukraine. What he wants, in fact, is to reestablish the former Soviet Union. That’s what this is about. And I think that his ambitions are completely contrary to the place where the rest of the world has arrived.”
The list of sanctions the United States imposed on Russia Thursday is a lengthy one. It includes:
- Severing the connection to the U.S. financial system for Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, including 25 subsidiaries, by imposing correspondent and payable-through account sanctions.
- Full blocking sanctions on Russia’s second largest financial institution, VTB Bank, including 20 subsidiaries. VTB holds nearly one-fifth of the overall Russian banking sector’s assets, is heavily exposed to the U.S. and western financial systems, and is systemically critical to the Russian financial system. This action will freeze any of VTB’s assets touching the U.S financial system and prohibit U.S.citizens from dealing with them.
- Full blocking sanctions on three other major Russian financial institutions: Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank PJSC, Novikombank and 34 subsidiaries. These sanctions freeze any of these institutions’ assets touching the U.S financial system and prohibit U.S. persons from dealing with them.
- New debt and equity restrictions on 13 of the most critical major Russian enterprises and entities. This includes restrictions on all transactions in, provision of financing for, and other dealings in new debt of greater than 14 days maturity and new equity issued by 13 Russian state-owned enterprises and entities: Sberbank, Alfa-Bank, Credit Bank of Moscow, Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Transneft, Rostelecom, RusHydro, Alrosa, Sovcomflot, and Russian Railways. These entities, including companies critical to the Russian economy with estimated assets of nearly $1.4 trillion, will not be able to raise money through the U.S. market.
- Additional full blocking sanctions on Russian elites and their family members: Sergei Ivanov (and his son, Sergei), Andrey Patrushev (and his son Nikolai), Igor Sechin (and his son Ivan), Andrey Puchkov, Yuriy Soloviev (and two real estate companies he owns), Galina Ulyutina, and Alexander Vedyakhin. This action includes individuals who have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian state, and have elevated their family members into some of the highest positions of powers in the country. It also includes financial figures who sit atop Russia’s largest financial institutions and are responsible for providing the resources necessary to support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Costs on Belarus for supporting a further invasion of Ukraine by sanctioning 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, including targeting Belarus’ military and financial capabilities by sanctioning two significant Belarusian state-owned banks, nine defense firms, and seven regime-connected officials and elites.
- Sweeping restrictions on Russia’s military to strike a blow to Putin’s military and strategic ambitions. This includes measures against military end users, including the Russian Ministry of Defense. Exports of nearly all U.S. items and items produced in foreign countries using certain U.S.-origin software, technology or equipment will be restricted to targeted military end users. These restrictions apply to the Russian Ministry of Defense, including the Armed Forces of Russia, wherever located.
- Russia-wide restrictions to choke off Russia’s import of technological goods critical to a diversified economy and Putin’s ability to project power. This includes a Russia-wide denial of exports of sensitive technology, primarily targeting the Russian defense, aviation and maritime sectors to cut off Russia’s access to cutting-edge technology. In addition to sweeping restrictions on the Russian-defense sector, the United States government will impose Russia-wide restrictions on sensitive U.S. technologies produced in foreign countries using U.S.-origin software, technology or equipment. This includes Russia-wide restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics and maritime technologies.
- Historical multilateral cooperation that serves as a force multiplier in restricting more than $50 billion in key inputs to Russia, impacting far more than that in Russia’s production. As a result of this multilateral coordination, we will provide an exemption for other countries that adopt equally stringent measures. Countries that adopt substantially similar export restrictions are exempted from new U.S. licensing requirements for items produced in their countries. The European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have already communicated their plans for parallel actions.
President Biden said after speaking with the members of the G7 this morning, all were in “full and total agreement” that they would limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, Euros, pounds and yen.
“We’re going to stunt the ability to finance and grow Russia [and] the Russian military, we’re going to impair their ability to compete in the high-tech 21st century economy. … And we’ve already seen the impact of our actions on Russia’s currency and the ruble, which early today hit its weakest level ever in history,” the president said. “And earlier today we saw Russia’s stock market plunge and the Russian government’s borrowing rates spike by over 50%.”
Biden said as of Thursday, the United States and its allies would impose sanctions on additional Russian banks that together hold over $1 trillion in assets, including Russia’s largest bank, which holds more than one-third of the nation’s banking assets.
“They’ll be cut off from the U.S. financial system. That means every asset they have in America will be frozen,” he said.
“As promised, we’re also adding the names of Russian elites and their family members to the entities that are being sanctioned,” he continued. “As I said on Tuesday, these are people who personally gained from the Kremlin’s policies and they should share in the pain.”
He said the White House would continue to add to the list of “corrupt” Russian billionaires on the list of the sanctions in the days ahead.
“On Tuesday, we stopped the Russian government from raising money from U.S. or European investors. Now we’re going to apply the same restrictions to Russia’s largest state-owned enterprises. Companies with assets that exceed $1.4 trillion,” the president said.
“Some of the most powerful impacts of our actions will come over time, as we squeeze Russia’s access to finances and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and reduce its industrial capacity for years to come,” the president said. “Between our actions and those of our allies and partners, we estimate that [we] will cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports [and] will strike a blow to their ability to continue to modernize their military. [The sanctions will] degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program, hurt their ability to build ships, reduc[e] their ability to compete economically, and … be a major hit on Putin’s long-term strategic ambitions.”
President Biden also announced that NATO will convene a summit meeting on Friday, bringing together the leaders of 30 allied nations and their close partners “to affirm our solidarity and map out next steps.”
The president reiterated earlier statements that U.S. forces will not be directly engaged in an armed conflict with Russia in Ukraine.
“We are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the east,” he said.
He added, however, “As I have made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power.
“The good news is that NATO is more united and more determined than ever. There is no doubt every NATO ally will meet their Article Five commitments, which say an attack on one is an attack on all.”
The president said that in addition to the thousands of additional troops the U.S. has deployed in Germany and Russia in recent weeks, he authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to deploy in NATO’s eastern flank allies, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
And he said he’s authorized additional troops — put on standby weeks ago by the Pentagon — to deploy to Germany.
“Our allies have also been stepping up, adding their own forces and capabilities to ensure collective defense, and today, within hours of Russia’s unleashing its assault, NATO came together and activated a response plan that will enable NATO’s high readiness forces to deploy when and where they’re needed.”
The president closed by saying he has spoken to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley about preparations for additional moves, should that become necessary to protect our NATO allies “and support the greatest military alliance in the history of the world.”
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue
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