U.S. President Joe Biden announced additional, more severe economic and financial sanctions on Russia, but cautioned that they would take some time to take effect.
Biden was speaking on Feb. 25 (Singapore time) during a press conference, about a day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched, and fighting intensified in the eastern European country.
Biden began by blasting Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, for launching a "premeditated" invasion of Ukraine.
"Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war," he said, pointing out that Russia moved blood supplies into position and built a field hospital. He also pointed out that the U.S.'s warnings about Russia's plans to invade were accurate.
"We’ve been transparent with the world. We’ve shared declassified evidence about Russia’s plans and cyberattacks and false pretexts so that there can be no confusion or cover-up about what Putin was doing.
Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences."
Earlier, he met with counterparts in the G7 and agreed to impose "devastating" sanctions and other economic measures on Russia.
Other countries in the G7 include the UK, Germany and Japan.
This morning, I met with my G7 counterparts to discuss President Putin’s unjustified attack on Ukraine and we 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. pic.twitter.com/dzvYxj7J9w— President Biden (@POTUS) February 24, 2022
New sanctions on more Russian banks, state-owned enterprises
Biden announced new sanctions that will impose a "severe cost" on the Russian economy, both immediately and in the long run.
Biden added that the sanctions have been designed to maximise the long-term effects on Russia, and minimise its effects on the U.S. and their allies.
The president said that the U.S. had assembled a global coalition that represented over half of the global economy, including members of the European Union, the UK, Canada, Japan and Australia to "amplify" the joint impact of the response.
Russia’s largest banks and largest companies will be cut off from western financial markets. Four more Russian banks, including VTB, Russia's second-largest bank with assets totalling US$250 billion (S$339 billion), will be blocked.
"That means every asset they have in America will be frozen," Biden explained.
Tech exports to Russia blocked
More Russian elites will be added to the sanctions list, and also their family members, as they have "personally gained from the Kremlin's policies, and they should share in the pain."
Russia's largest state-owned enterprises, with assets exceeding US$1.4 trillion dollars, will not be allowed to raise money from the U.S. or European investors.
And between the U.S. and its partners, Biden estimated they would cut off more than half of Russia's high tech imports, adding that this would strike a blow to their efforts to modernise their military and their ability to compete economically.
Support for NATO nations
NATO will convene a summit to affirm their solidarity and map out the next steps.
Biden emphasised that despite providing Ukraine with military aid, U.S. troops will not engage Russian forces in Ukraine.
"As I made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power," he said.
Biden authorised additional U.S. forces to Germany and said there were preparations for additional moves if it became necessary to support NATO.
Support for American public
Biden also said his Administration is using "every tool at its disposal" to protect American businesses and families from spiking energy prices.
Brent crude oil prices crossed US$100 (S$135) per barrel for the first time since 2014 following the invasion.
Biden said the U.S. is working with energy producers around the world to secure energy supplies, and while Americans may feel some pain at the gas pump, the consequences of unanswered aggression would be "much worse".
Biden also warned Russia against launching cyberattacks against the U.S.
"If Russia pursues cyber attacks against our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond," he said.
He also pledged humanitarian relief for the Ukrainian people.
Not cutting Russia off from SWIFT - yet
Biden responded to a question from the Wall Street Journal, who asked why the announced sanctions did not include cutting Russia off from SWIFT, the global payment system.
Without SWIFT, Russia would be essentially cut off from most international business transactions, but experts cited by the NY Post have likened it to a "nuclear option" in terms of financial sanctions.
"It is always an option, but right now, it is not a position that the rest of Europe wishes to take," he said.
However, Biden said that the proposed sanctions on Russian banks have an "equal consequence" and may even "exceed" SWIFT.
Biden emphasised that the economic sanctions would "take time", and in the meantime, the western countries needed to demonstrate resolve.
"And we will," the president said.
UK's Boris Johnson announces sanctions
At about the same time, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed Parliament and also announced its package of sanctions, which he said would "hobble" the Russian economy.
These included a ban on major Russian companies from raising finance on UK markets and preventing Russia from raising sovereign debt on UK markets.
Some key Russian oligarchs and banks will have their assets frozen, including VTB, and individual sanctions will be imposed on other entities and subsidiaries, including Russian defence companies selling arms.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail claimed that billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea Football Club, would be denied any application for a permanent visa to live in the UK.
Top image from White House YouTube.
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