Washington: In response to Russia declaring the two rebel regions of Ukraine as independent states, US President Joe Biden has imposed tough new sanctions on Moscow in the wake of what he called “the beginning of a Russian invasion” of Kiev.
Addressing reporters in the White House on Tuesday, Biden said the first tranche of sanctions to impose costs on Russia are “far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014”.
“And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as – with sanction… These (sanctions) have been closely coordinated with our allies and partners, and we’ll continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates,” he added.
The sanctions have been imposed on two large Russian financial institutions: V.E.B. and their military bank, as well as on Russian sovereign debt, which according to Biden is to “cut off Russia’s government from Western financing”.
Russia “can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either”, the President said.
Biden said that his administration “will also impose sanctions on Russia’s elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well”.
“And because of Russia’s actions, we’ve worked with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 will not – as I promised – will not move forward,” he noted.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is expected to transport 55 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The 1,234-km pipeline, however, has been lying idle, pending a go-ahead from Germany and the European Union.
The President called his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin’s declaration a “flagrant violation of international law”, which “demands a firm response from the international community” and warned that Moscow “will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions”.
In response to Russia’s stance on not withdrawing its forces from Belarus, Biden also authorised additional movements of American forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to “strengthen our Baltic Allies — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania”.
“There are there are still well over 150,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine… Russian forces remain positioned in Belarus to attack Ukraine from the north, including war planes and offensive missile systems,” the President claimed.
“Russia has moved troops closer to Ukraine’s border… Russia’s naval vessels are maneuvering in the Black Sea to Ukraine’s south, including amphibious assault ships, missile cruisers, and submarines.
“Russia has moved supplies of blood and medical equipment into position on their border. You don’t need blood unless you plan on starting a war,” he further said.
Biden however, reiterated that the sanctions were “totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia”.
“We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the US, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.
“We’re united in our support of Ukraine. We’re united in our opposition to Russian aggression. And we’re united in our resolve to defend our NATO Alliance. And we’re united in our understanding of the urgency and seriousness of the threat Russia is making to global peace and stability,” he added.