Biden Threatens Putin with Sanctions ‘He’s Never Seen’ Before
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“There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do, depending on what happens,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday. The response would depend on the scale of the Russian move against Kiev, “to what extent we will be able to get total unity on the NATO front.”
At one point, Biden suggested that a “minor incursion” might not necessitate a severe response. He gave the example of cyberwarfare – as opposed to killing Ukrainian troops – and said, “We can respond in the same way.”
Biden made the comments in just his second major press conference since taking office a year ago, painting a dark picture of prospects for war in Ukraine. He claimed that Russia will likely make some effort to test and divide NATO, adding that a full-scale invasion would be disastrous for Moscow but also painful for the Western allies.
He also seemed to offer conflicting assessments on the likelihood of a full-scale war. At one point, he said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “My guess is, he will move in, he has to do something.” Later, Biden told another reporter that Putin hasn’t yet decided on a course of action.
“There’s a whole range of things that I’m sure he’s trying to calculate, how quickly he can do what he wants to do and what he wants to do,” Biden said. “I believe he’s accounting the short- and long-term consequences for Russia will be, and I don’t think he’s made up his mind yet.”
Biden claimed that Russia could eventually win a conventional shooting war with Ukraine, at heavy cost of lives, but the costs of occupation would be great. He added that resulting sanctions against Moscow, including potentially eliminating the ability of Russian banks to transact in US dollars, would exact a heavy toll.
“Our allies and partners are ready and willing to impose severe costs on Russia and the Russian economy,” Biden said. While acknowledging that the sanctions would be painful for NATO member economies, too, Biden said Putin’s potential punitive options, such as cutting off natural gas shipments to the West, would be ruinous for Russia.
“It’s not like they have all these wonderful choices out there,” Biden said. “This is not all just a cakewalk for Russia. Militarily, they have overwhelming superiority relative to Ukraine, but they’ll pay a severe price.”
Asked by a reporter about the fact that past sanctions have failed to influence Putin’s actions, Biden replied: He’s never seen sanctions like the ones I will impose.
Meanwhile, “there is still hope for a diplomatic solution and the countries could hold a peace summit,” Biden said. Russia has demanded a guarantee that Kiev will never become a NATO member and that NATO won’t station strategic weapons in Ukraine. Biden said “we can work out something” on the weapons-deployment issue, and Ukraine won’t be ready to join NATO in the near term, but a permanent promise on NATO membership can’t be made.