US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of funding, and said Moscow had begun an invasion of Ukraine.
And Biden threatened to take tougher steps if Russia “continues its aggression”.
“We are implementing sanctions on the Russian debt. That means we’ve cut the Russian government off from Western funding,” Biden said.
“It can no longer raise money from the West, nor can it trade its new debt in our markets or in European markets.”
The measures also target VEB, Russia’s state development bank, and members of the country’s “elites,” the US leader said.
“They share the corrupt benefits of the Kremlin’s policies and should share in the pain as well.”
The announcement came after the European Union announced its own sanctions in a coordinated Western effort to pressure Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Biden said the responses have been “closely coordinated with our allies and partners” and added: “We will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates.”
However, Washington’s response did not seem to go as far as the European Union, nor as far as some had expected.
Biden announced “full blocking sanctions” against both the VEB and Russia’s “military bank”, which likely means the institutions will have their foreign assets frozen and banned from using the US financial system.
However, the fines cover fewer financial institutions and do not appear to have separated the country from the SWIFT system used to move money around the world.
Nor did Biden resort to export controls, which would have cut off Russian companies from key high-tech equipment and software, which some analysts believe could be a possibility.
Biden says Russian ‘invasion’ of Ukraine ‘begins’
Biden said on Tuesday that Russia has begun invading Ukraine, but there was still time for diplomacy to avoid the “worst case scenario” of a full-scale attack on the country.
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the US leader said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announced plans to send troops deep into the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine.
“He’s coming up with a rationale for taking more territory by force,” Biden said in a nationwide White House address.
“And if we listened to his speech last night… he’s coming up with a reason to go much further,” Biden said.
Biden announced more sanctions against Russia’s finances and political elite, hoping the pressure will deter a large-scale invasion.
He said the United States would continue to supply “defensive” weapons to Ukraine and deploy more US troops to bolster NATO allies in Eastern Europe.
But he suggested diplomatic talks could counter a worsening crisis, one of the deepest in Europe since World War II.
“There is no doubt that Russia is the aggressor, so we are clear about the challenges we face,” Biden said.
“Nevertheless, there is still time to avoid the worst-case scenario that will cause untold suffering to millions of people if they move as proposed,” he said.