President Joe Biden’s decision this week alongside European allies to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine has sparked a debate about whether the administration’s policy of deterrence has already failed. .
“No one expected the sanctions to stop anything from happening,” Biden said Thursday as he defended the policy amid criticism that the administration hadn’t done enough to prevent the invasion to happen in the first place.
SENATE DIVIDED OVER IMPOSING RUSSIAN SANCTIONS BEFORE OR AFTER INVASION OF UKRAINE
Biden’s assertion this week contradicts weeks of assurances from his own team that the sanctions threat was aimed at deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin from moving troops to Ukraine.
As White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried moments later to walk back Biden’s remark, telling reporters in a Report Thursday afternoon that she thought “that’s not exactly what he meant” about the intended effect of the sanctions threats, the comment had already sparked scrutiny of the failure of the administration to deter Putin.
Here are five times Biden administration officials have said their sanctions policy was designed to stop Putin’s invasion.
“PREVENTING AND DETERRING” SANCTIONS
Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for the international economy and deputy director of the National Economic Council, said on Tuesday that the express purpose of the sanctions threat was deterrence.
“Sanctions are not an end in themselves. They serve a higher purpose. And that purpose is to deter and prevent,” Singh noted. “They are intended to prevent and deter a large-scale invasion of Ukraine which could involve the capture of major cities, including Kiev. They are intended to prevent large-scale human suffering which could result in tens of thousands of victims in a conflict.
Singh’s comments came after Putin’s foray into Ukraine began this week – at a time when the administration had yet to call it a real invasion.
Singh defended the White House’s decision to impose a partial sanctions package, noting that because Russia had only executed “the beginning of an invasion” it was “the beginning of our response” from the White House.
So even after the Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border and the violence began, Biden administration officials still held out hope that suspending additional sanctions and simply threatening them would be enough to dissuade Putin from Continue.
“WE WANT THEM TO HAVE A DETERRENT EFFECT”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby apparently blamed Russia’s delay in invading Ukraine on the sanctions power threatened on Monday – arguing that the sanctions would not sway Putin if they were put in place before an attack.
“We want them to be a deterrent, clearly,” Kirby said during a appearance on Fox News. “And he hasn’t invaded yet.”
“So listen, if you’re punishing someone for something they haven’t done yet… they might as well go ahead and do it,” Kirby added.
Biden administration officials had, in the weeks leading up to this week’s invasion, been careful not to issue threats or take actions that could be seen as escalating tensions.
Officials have tried to keep the door open for diplomacy as long as possible before the start of Russian military operations.
SANCTIONS SHOULD ‘ABSOLUTELY’ DETER PUTIN
Vice President Kamala Harris drew criticism over the weekend when she offered mixed messages about the likely outcome of threatening sanctions – days before Biden was reprimanded for the same offence.
At the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Harris noted she absolutely believed that the series of sanctions devised by the United States and its European allies could deter Putin from taking further action.
But Harris appeared to support the administration’s claim, based on US intelligence assessments, that Putin had already decided by then to invade Ukraine.
Harris’ comments came under meticulous examination for seemingly contradictory statements that sanctions could still deter Putin from moving forward and that he was already determined to move forward.
THE SANCTIONS ARE MEANT “TO AVOID RUSSIA FROM ENTERING THE WAR”
Even as Russian military forces gathered for an imminent invasion that would finally begin days later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the threat of sanctions would be a more powerful deterrent than imposing the sanctions themselves. themselves.
“The purpose of sanctions in the first place is to try to deter Russia from going to war,” Blinken said during a appearance on CNN. “As soon as you trigger them, that deterrent is gone. And until the last minute, as long as we can try to deter that, we’ll try to do that.
“SANCTIONS ARE INTENDED TO DETERRENT”
On February 11, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that threatening sanctions without imposing them before a Russian invasion was the “good logic” to deter Putin.
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“The president thinks the sanctions are there to deter,” Sullivan said. Recount journalists during a press briefing. “And for them to work – to deter, they have to be put in place so that if Putin moves, the costs are imposed.”
“We think that’s the right logic both on its own merits, but just as importantly, we think the most important fundamental to everything that’s unfolding in this crisis, whether through diplomacy or at the following military action, is for the West to be strong, to be united and determined to operate for a common purpose,” Sullivan added.