Biden says sanctions will take time to impact Russian economy

President Biden delivers a statement on Russia and Ukraine in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, February 24, 2022.
UPI Photo

President Biden on Thursday cautioned that it could take time for sanctions on Russia to have the desired impact, acknowledged the coming weeks and months “will be hard on the people of Ukraine.”

During a speech from the White House, Biden announced another round of sanctions targeting major Russian banks and additional oligarchs in response to Russia launching an invasion into neighboring Ukraine at the direction of President Vladimir Putin.

But as Ukrainian officials vowed to reject an attempted Russian occupation and some citizens fled major cities, Biden acknowledged that measures meant to choke off Moscow from the rest of the world would not pay immediate dividends.

“No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,” Biden said. “This could take time, and we have to show resolve so [Putin] knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about.

“This is going to take time. It’s not going to occur, he’s going to say, ‘Oh my god these sanctions are coming, I’m going to stand down,'” Biden continued. “He’s going to test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together, and we will. We will, and it will impose significant costs on him.”

The Treasury Department said in a release that the Biden administration would impose sanctions on VTB and Sberbank, Russia’s two largest financial institutions, cutting them off from processing payments through the U.S. financial system.

The U.S. sanctions were announced in coordination with European allies, who have also aimed to cut Russia out of the global financial markets. 

However, the sanctions did not include kicking Russia out of SWIFT, the international banking system. Biden said such a step was not completely out of the question, but cited concerns among some European partners about doing so in the latest round of sanctions.

“The sanctions we imposed exceed SWIFT. The sanctions we imposed exceed anything that’s ever been done. The sanctions we imposed have generated two-thirds of the world joining us. They are profound sanctions. Let’s have a conversation in another month or so to see if they’re working.”

Biden’s comments to revisit the decision in a month underscored how the West may need to wait Russia out and allow time for the sanctions to fully impact the country’s economy, as well as turn public sentiment within Russia against Putin.

In the meantime, Ukraine is faced with defending itself against attacks on major cities via air and land from Russia, with reporters on the ground detailing the sounds of artillery fire in the capital of Kyiv and fighting in the city of Kharkiv.

Pentagon officials warned in a briefing on Thursday morning that Russian forces are likely to try to remove the Ukrainian government, a sign that the attacks are likely to only grow more intense in the coming days.

“When it comes to sanctions against Putin – If we are NOT doing everything possible, we are NOT doing enough,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted. “Time is NOT on our side.”

The U.S. has vowed to provide humanitarian assistance and send equipment directly to Ukraine, but Biden has repeatedly ruled out sending American troops to fight Russia within Ukraine.

“The next few weeks and months will be hard on the people of Ukraine,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. “Putin has unleashed a great pain on them. But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they’ve repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backward.”

Tags Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Vladimir Putin

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