Biden announces sanctions against Russia


President confirms that for now there was no attempt to put sanctions directly on Putin, who is widely reported to have amassed a huge, secret fortune during his two decades in power, reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced “severe” economic sanctions that will make President Vladimir Putin a “pariah” for invading Ukraine, revealing he had no plans to talk to his counterpart. He also conceded a lack of Western unity for enacting an even tougher measure.

In a speech from the White House, Biden said four major banks would be hit with sanctions by Western powers and that export controls on sensitive components would “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”

“This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time,” Biden said.

The measures, on top of a raft of other sanctions already announced this week, will make Putin “a pariah on the international stage,” Biden said.

“Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association,” he said.

Biden confirmed that for now there was no attempt to put sanctions directly on Putin, who is widely reported to have amassed a huge, secret fortune during his two decades in power.

He also said that a much-talked-about move to cut Russia from the SWIFT international payments system — essentially crippling its banking sector — was not happening.

Ukraine pleaded for yanking Russia from SWIFT on Thursday, but Biden revealed that the Western coalition could not come to an agreement.

“It is always an option but right now that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take,” he said.

G7 closes ranks

Biden spoke to the nation after having attended a virtual, closed-door meeting that lasted an hour and 10 minutes with the Group of Seven.

The group of rich Western democracies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States — said it was standing firm against Russia’s “threat to the rules-based international order.”

Biden tweeted that G7 leaders “agreed to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine.”

In a joint statement, the seven industrial powers also said they were “ready to act” to minimize disruptions to world energy markets as a result of Moscow’s assault on Ukraine and with sanctions already targeting a major pipeline from heavyweight energy producer Russia.

Next step

A first round of Western sanctions was unleashed Tuesday, after Putin announced he would send troops as “peacekeepers” to two small areas already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

The US government joined European allies in imposing sanctions on two Russian banks, Moscow’s sovereign debt, several oligarchs and other measures.

Then on Wednesday, as the Russian invasion force became clearly primed to attack, Biden announced he was imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany — one of Moscow’s highest-profile geopolitical projects.

Germany had earlier announced it would block the pipeline from opening for deliveries.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned this week that “no Russian financial institution is safe.”

Some measures risk causing economic fallout for Western countries and could imperil the global economy recovery after the Covid pandemic. Already stock markets are tumbling and oil prices are soaring over $100 a barrel.

The SWIFT option in particular is seen as problematic. It would at least for some time disconnect Russia from basic commerce — hugely disrupting Putin’s economy — but it would also carry considerable potential aftershocks to the wider, US-led financial system.

No NATO or US troops

NATO and the US have made it clear that no troops will be sent, leaving Ukraine’s military — far inferior to Russia — to hold off the assault alone. Few expect it to emerge victorious from what is almost certain to be a prolonged, bloody, and vicious war, Daily Mail reported.

NATO is expected to focus its efforts on stopping the war from spilling over into neighbouring countries, Daily Mail reported.

Poland, a member of the alliance, shares an extensive land border with Ukraine.

The Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, also NATO members — will now fear a Russian assault.

The alliance began moving its forces early Thursday, putting 100 warplanes on high alert in Europe whole moving more troops to the Baltics, the report said.

Speaking in an emergency White House press conference, Biden called Putin a ‘pariah’ on the international stage and called on the West to stand up to the ‘bully’.

But he insisted the US would not be helping Ukraine with troops.

He said: ‘Our forces are not, and will not be, engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine. Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our Nato allies and reassure those allies in the east.

‘When the history of this era is written, Putin’s choice to make a totally unjustifiable war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.

‘He has much larger ambitions than Ukraine. He wants to, in fact, re-establish the former Soviet Union. That’s what this is about.’

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