To punish Russia for its military attack on Ukraine, President Biden warned on Thursday that the US would sanction major Russian banks and put export limits on Russian high-tech goods.
Biden said the penalties will target Russian banks with combined assets of $1 trillion, including Russia’s two largest financial institutions, Sberbank and VTB Bank.
He suggested the US would sanction more Russian elites linked to the Kremlin.
Biden slammed Putin for directing the invasion on Ukraine, saying it would cost Russia “dearly.”
“Putin strikes first. “Putin picked this conflict, and now he and his country suffer,” Biden added.
A pariah on the international scene, Putin, Biden remarked afterward.
The Treasury Department announced penalties against VTB and Sberbank, preventing them from making payments through the US banking system.
The Biden administration also sanctioned Otkritie, Novikom, and Sovcom.
The penalties also target 10 Russians, including Putin allies and financial elites, the Treasury Department said.
According to a White House information sheet, the export limits will impede Russia’s ability to import critical US technology like semiconductors, lasers, and sensors.
Biden said the sanctions, along with European allies’ moves, will cut off almost half of Russia’s high-tech imports.
Putin’s long-term strategic aspirations will be severely harmed, Biden added.
Despite Ukraine’s and some Congressmen’s demands, the current round of sanctions did not remove Russia from the SWIFT international banking system.
“I won’t be diplomatic. The blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children will be on the hands of everyone who doubts Russia should be barred from SWIFT,”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted ahead of Biden’s remarks. “SWIFT RUSSIA OUT.”
Biden acknowledged that some European friends objected to the move, but said that the fines imposed were strong enough to deter. He hinted at kicking Russia out of the system in the future.
“The sanctions we imposed surpass SWIFT,” Biden replied when asked about the penalty. “The punishments we imposed were unprecedented. Our sanctions compelled two-thirds of the globe to join us. Weak sanctions. Let’s talk in a month or so to see if they work.”
The sanctions did not target Russia’s oil or gas industries, which are key economic drivers. Europe relies on Russian gas.
The Biden administration also announced measures to sanction Belarusians for allegedly aiding and abetting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden announced fresh sanctions as Russia attacked Ukraine.
Moscow struck Ukraine from many directions overnight Wednesday on Putin’s orders. A multi-stage invasion, the Pentagon has warned.
“This is likely to occur in phases. Count. When? We dunno. This is the beginning of a large-scale invasion,” a senior defense official told reporters Thursday before Biden addressed the nation.
“They’re eyeing Kyiv,” the source stated.
The Biden administration has been working for weeks on a comprehensive sanctions package to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the threats and diplomatic efforts by the US and EU, Putin refused to deescalate the situation.
Biden authorized penalties after Putin declared two eastern Ukrainian districts as independent earlier this week.
On Thursday, Biden indicated that Putin’s economic misery could cause him to reconsider his military strategy.
“He’ll start to feel the sanctions,” Biden added. As a result, he will be forced to choose between becoming a second-rate power or responding.”
Biden condemned the attack late Wednesday, but his statements Thursday were his first extended comments on eastern European developments.
New sanctions were announced nearly an hour before Biden’s speech by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Russia’s military buildup and subsequent invasion of Ukraine have been tightly coordinated by the White House.
According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the actions taken with partners and allies will weaken Russia’s ability to project strength and undermine European peace and stability.
Our goal is to hold Russia accountable for its continued assault of Ukraine while protecting Americans and our allies. We are ready to impose further costs on Russia if necessary.”