Washington (AFP) – President Joe Biden responded Thursday to Russia’s invasion of Ukraineunleashing powerful new sanctions, ordered the deployment of thousands of additional troops to NATO ally Germany and announced that America would stand up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
He also acknowledged that the invasion — and efforts to thwart Putin — would have a cost to Americans. But he sought to reassure that the economic pain that would come with higher energy prices would not last long in the United States
As for the Russian president, Biden said, “He will test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together. And we will.”
Biden said the United States is targeting the Russian financial system You will freeze the assets of large Russian banks, i Export controls are aimed at meeting the country’s high-tech needs and punishing oligarchs.
The president said the United States would also deploy additional troops to Germany to support NATO after the invasion of Ukraine, which is not a member of the defense organization. About 7,000 additional US troops will be sent.
But some US lawmakers — and Ukrainian officials — have called on Biden to do more.
“There is more that we can and must do,” said Senator Bob Menendez, chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations, referring to the possibility of removing Russian banks from the SWIFT international banking system and sanctioning Putin personally. “Congress and the Biden administration should not be ashamed of any options.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday expressed support for Biden’s latest moves, but also urged Biden to put maximum pressure on Putin.
“We’re all together at this point and we need to be together on what to do,” McConnell said. But I do have some advice: Escalate the penalties to the end. Don’t hold back on anything.”
Biden declared that Putin, who has referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the past century, is looking beyond Ukraine.
“He has much bigger ambitions,” Biden said. He wants, in effect, to re-establish the former Soviet Union. That’s what this is about.
The sanctions announced Thursday are in line with the White House’s insistence that they will hit Russia’s financial system and Putin’s inner circle, while also imposing export controls aimed at starving Russian industries and the military of American semiconductors and other high-tech products.
“Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
But Biden, for now, has delayed imposing some of the toughest possible sanctions, including excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system, which allows money to be transferred from bank to bank worldwide.
Biden announced the sanctions at the White House, while the Ukrainian government reported increasing losses among Russian forces attacking from the east, north and south.
Oil and natural prices have already risen due to concerns that Russia – an energy giant – will slow the flow of oil and natural gas to Europe. However, Biden acknowledged that the sanctions “will take time” to have an impact on the Russian economy.
He also acknowledged that the invasion — and efforts to thwart Putin — would have a cost to Americans. But he sought to reassure them that the economic pain that would come with higher energy prices would not last long for them.
Biden added that after Russia’s “brutal attack” on Ukraine, it would be wrong for Putin’s actions to go unanswered. If they did, he said, “the consequences for America would be much worse.”
“America stands up to bullies, we stand up for freedom,” Biden said. “this is us.”
Biden spoke hours after holding 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 also joined the meeting.
The president also met with the national security team in the White House Situation Room as he looked to capture the United States’ actions in the rapidly escalating crisis.
While Biden described the sanctions as harsh, Ukrainian officials urged the United States and the West to move forward and isolate the Russians from the Swift financial system.
“We demand the separation of Russia from the SWIFT system, the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and other effective steps to stop the aggressor,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet.
However, the Biden administration has shown some reluctance to cut Russia off from SWIFT, at least immediately, over concerns that the move could also have huge repercussions for Europe and other Western economies. In response to reporters’ questions, Biden appeared to push a decision on the Swift to European allies.
“It’s always a choice but right now that’s not the position the rest of Europe would like to take,” Biden said. He also claimed that the financial sanctions he announced would be more harmful to Russia.
The Belgium-based system allows tens of millions of daily transactions to be conducted between banks, financial exchanges and other institutions. The United States in particular has prevented Iran from entering the regime because of its nuclear program.
Officials in Europe have noted that losing Russia’s access to SWIFT could be a drag on the broader global economy. Russia also equated the Swift ban with a declaration of war. Because the system establishes the importance of the US dollar in global finance, outright bans also carry the risk of prompting countries to use alternatives through the Chinese government or blockchain-based technologies.
While SWIFT is the primary messaging system for financial payments, “there are alternatives to the system” and cutting Russia off would create “immediate problems and immediate problems for the international community,” said Brian Fry, a former attorney general at the Department of Justice during the Trump administration.
The sanctions include targeting Russia’s two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB. The US Treasury says the sanctions overall “target approximately 80 percent of all banking assets in Russia and will have a profound and long-term impact on the Russian economy and financial system.”
Individuals close to Putin have also been targeted in recent sanctions. Among them are former Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov; Andrei Patrushev, an ally of Putin who held high positions in the state-owned Gazprom Neft, and former Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, chairman of the board of directors of the oil company Rosneft.
As announced by the Treasury Department Sanctions against Belarusian banksand defense and security industry officials in the country over support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said the export control measures he has ordered “will impose a heavy cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.” The measures will restrict Russia’s access to semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers and sensors.
“We will weaken their competitiveness in the high-tech economy of the 21st century,” Biden said.
On the other hand, a senior State Department official said Thursday, the second Russian diplomat in Washington was expelled in response to Russia’s expulsion of the No. 2 American diplomat in Moscow earlier this month.
The expulsions have nothing to do with the invasion and are part of a long-running dispute between Washington and Moscow over embassy staff. However, it comes as tensions between the two capitals are at their post-Cold War high.
The official said the Foreign Ministry informed the Russian embassy on Wednesday that it would expel Minister Counselor Sergei Trebelkov, who is currently No. 2 in the mission under the leadership of Ambassador Anatoly Antonov. Russia expelled US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman from Moscow in mid-February.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldur, Josh Bock, Fatima Hussein, Matthew Lee, Lisa Mascaro and Chris Megerian in Washington and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky contributed to the report.
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