President Joe Biden on Thursday announced what he characterized as harsh new round of sanctions against Russia, just hours after Moscow launched an attack against Ukraine, plunging Europe into one of its gravest security crises since World War II.
Speaking from the White House, Biden criticized President Vladimir Putin for his “naked aggression against Ukraine” and vowed to make the Russian leader a “pariah on the international stage.”
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said.
After weeks of touting a diplomatic solution, the invasion shifted Biden’s tone.
“There is a complete rupture right now in U.S.-Russian relations,” he said when asked by a reporter about relationship between the two nations.
The new sanctions restrict the exports of some products from the U.S. to Russia, blocking Moscow’s ability to acquire semiconductor chips and other technology essential to defense, aerospace and other critical sectors. The sanctions also target Russian banks and elites with close ties to Putin, freezing every asset Russia has in the U.S.
Biden also authorized U.S. forces to be deployed in Germany and said NATO allies would convene a summit on Friday to “map out the next steps.” The president reiterated his commitment to not send American troops into Ukraine to fight Russia, but said the U.S. would defend its NATO allies if Russia advanced beyond Ukraine.
Biden announced an initial narrow round of sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Putin moved troops into Moscow-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of Ukraine, hoping to deter the Russian leader from launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Biden warned then that more severe actions would be taken against Russia if Putin were to escalate the situation.
Thursday’s announcement stopped short of cutting Russia off from SWIFT — the Belgian financial messaging system that links more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries and territories — and did not directly sanction Putin. A move by the U.S. and Europe to kick Russia off SWIFT had been characterized by some financial experts as a nuclear option, with some warning it could have negative impacts on the global economy.
Biden said that European allies were opposed to kicking Russia off SWIFT, but argued that the sanctions announced this week were “more consequential” and said they could always revisit Russia’s access to SWIFT. Biden said that sanctioning Putin was still on the table.
Moscow launched a broad attack on Thursday, bombing Ukrainian cities and infrastructure as Russian troops attempted to advance towards Kyiv. Oksana Markarova, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., said that dozens of Ukrainian civilians have been killed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to take up arms in defense. The defense minister also announced that small arms would be distributed to all veterans and volunteers.
Biden has been adamant about not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight Russia and is relying heavily on sanctions to punish Moscow.
Biden urged Americans to have patience with the sanctions, saying that they would “take time” to “weaken” Russia. And he warned that Americans could feel some economic pain from the invasion, but that he expected the impact to be short lived.
The president said his administration was actively taking steps to make sure that gas prices would not climb even higher and warned oil and gas companies not to take advantage of the moment to raise prices. The U.S. would be prepared to tap into its oil reserve as needed, Biden said.
“I will do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me. But this aggression cannot go unanswered,” Biden said.
“America stands up to bullies.