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Biden refuses to say why he didn’t sanction Putin personally

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan in the East Room of The White House in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 16, 2021. (Oliver Contreras/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM/TNS)
February 24, 2022

On Thursday, President Joe Biden unleashed new U.S. sanctions on Russia aimed at crippling its economy, though he did not target Russian President Vladimir Putin personally with sanctions, and refused to say why.

Biden went as far as to ignore a reporter’s question as to why he had not sanctioned Putin directly. Biden confirmed only that sanctions on Putin were “on the table” but would not answer why he had not sanctioned Putin on Thursday.

Additionally, Biden’s sanctions did not include blocking Russia from SWIFT, an international bank-to-bank transfer agreement, instead insisting that his sanctions were equivalent.

Biden admitted that the sanctions would not prompt Russia to cease its attacks immediately, but said Putin would “begin to see the impact” of the sanctions. He said the sanctions would instead “weaken [Putin’s] country so that he’ll have to make a very difficult choice.”

“This could take time, and we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them,” Biden added.

“He’s going to test the resolve of the west to see if we stay together, and we will,” Biden said. “We will impose significant costs on him.”

“Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said earlier in his announcement. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

Biden said he’s imposing new severe sanctions that will cut off Russia’s assets in the U.S., including VTB Bank, which is Russia’s second-largest bank. The sanctions also target Russia’s elites, as well as its technology sector, which Biden said will “cut off half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”

“Every asset they have in America will be frozen,” Biden said. “This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.”

The Biden administration has repeated its intention to target Russia’s financial systems and export controls to cripple Russia’s industries of high-tech imports and semiconductors from the U.S.

Biden did note he was “preparing to do more” but did not indicate if sanctions on Putin or SWIFT sanctions would be among his future actions.

Biden’s full list of sanctions announced Thursday include;

  • Severing the connection to the U.S. financial system for Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, including 25 subsidiaries.
  • Full blocking sanctions on Russia’s second largest financial institution, VTB Bank (VTB), including 20 subsidiaries.
  • Full blocking sanctions on three other major Russian financial institutions: Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank OJSC, and Novikombank- and 34 subsidiaries.
  • New debt and equity restrictions on thirteen of the most critical major Russian enterprises and entities. 
  • Additional full blocking sanctions on Russian elites and their family members: Sergei Ivanov (and his son, Sergei), Andrey Patrushev (and his son Nikolai), Igor Sechin (and his son Ivan), Andrey Puchkov, Yuriy Solviev (and two real estate companies he owns), Galina Ulyutina, and Alexander Vedyakhin. 
  • Costs on Belarus for supporting a further invasion of Ukraine.
  • Sweeping restrictions on Russia’s military to strike a blow to Putin’s military and strategic ambitions.
  • Russia-wide restrictions to choke off Russia’s import of technological goods critical to a diversified economy and Putin’s ability to project power. 
  • Historical multilateral cooperation that serves as a force multiplier in restricting more than $50 billion in key inputs to Russia- impacting far more than that in Russia’s production.

Biden’s announcement came less than 24 hours after Putin announced Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine — a declaration of war — and immediately began sending in troops, tanks, and airstriking targets inside Ukraine.

By the first few hours of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, 25 cities had been attacked with missiles, and at least 40 Ukrainians were reported dead.