Biden Announces Russia Sanctions After Ukraine Invasion

President Joe Biden, citing the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” announced a series of sanctions Tuesday against Russia, and threatened to squeeze the Russian economy even more if President Vladimir Putin – as Biden expects – moves further.

“This is a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community,” Biden said, referring to Putin’s Monday speech in which the Russian leader “bizarrely asserted” that two separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine “are no longer part of Ukraine.”

Not only did Putin move aggressively toward a full-on invasion of its western neighbor, but “he directly attacked Ukraine’s right to exist,” Biden said. “He indirectly threatened territory formerly held by Russia, including nations that today are thriving democracies and members of NATO, explicitly threatened war unless his extreme demands were met.”

The sanctions – the “first tranche” of economic punishment of Russia – target two Russian financial institutions and sovereign debt. On Wednesday, Biden said, sanctions against Russian elites and their families would be imposed. The latter moves are notable because oftentimes, when economic sanctions are imposed on a country, it is rank-and-file citizens who suffer instead of the power structure of the country.

Biden also said he is sending more troops to the Baltic states to shore up defenses of NATO allies such as Poland. The NATO charter means the United States is obligated to protect fellow NATO members. Biden has repeatedly said he is not sending U.S. troops into Ukraine.

The president said more and more severe economic sanctions would come if Putin continues to move against Ukraine.

“When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words,” Biden said from the White House. “Whatever Russia does next, we’re ready to respond with unity, clarity and conviction. … I’m hoping diplomacy is still available.”

Germany has already agreed to halt Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. That hurts Russia, which relies on energy sales to support its economy, but the move – along with the sanctions imposed Tuesday – is expected to hit energy consumers in the United States and Europe.

Biden acknowledged the looming pocketbook pinch on American consumers already dealing with high inflation.

“Defending freedom will have costs for us as well and here at home,” the president said. “We need to be honest about that.” He said he would take “robust action” to ensure “the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours.”

He said the United States was working with allies and partners to stabilize the energy market and that it would “blunt” the hit on gas prices. Higher gas prices mean not only more expensive gas station bills but increased prices on goods because of higher transportation costs.

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