Pelosi warns Putin of more sanctions to come

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Russian President Vladimir Putin
Associated Press images

As Washington policymakers weigh the appropriate response to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is warning Moscow’s leaders to brace for much steeper economic penalties in the days and weeks to come.

“We haven’t seen the depth of these sanctions yet,” Pelosi said Wednesday during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Echoing that message, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, predicted that because Russian President Vladimir Putin appears determined to press ahead in Ukraine, more sanctions would inevitably follow.

“I think the sanctions are just going to continue to increase and will have an ultimately crippling effect on many sectors of the Russian economy,” he said. “We have to make sure that those costs continue and that the Russian people see the costs of their dictator’s aggression.” 

The warnings arrive a day after President Biden announced a series of new sanctions targeting Russian banks and wealthy individuals in response to Putin’s escalated aggression toward Ukraine. 

The sanctions effort was coordinated with a number of U.S. allies, which unveiled similar economic penalties against Moscow on Tuesday, including a remarkable move by Germany to refuse the certification of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. 

Biden characterized Putin’s aggression toward Ukraine as an “invasion” and cautioned that additional penalties would follow unless the Russian president reverses course and withdraws his troops — a message that seemed to go ignored in Moscow.

Biden has taken some heat, particularly from Republicans, for moving too slowly by applying the sanctions only after Putin had amassed what is estimated to be nearly 200,000 Russian troops around Ukraine’s perimeter. Democrats have pushed back, noting that Biden had made clear what penalties would follow if Putin continued his aggressive posture — a forewarning, the Democrats say, that carried the same weight of deterrence as the sanctions themselves.

“That’s all you can do,” Schiff said.

“If you’ve got a dictator like Putin, who amasses 100,000, 200,000 troops on the border of a much smaller, much weaker country and is determined to invade, then short of going to war with Russia, embarking on this brutal package of sanctions, I think, is the most effective way to raise costs on Russia,” he continued. “And I think the costs on Russia and the Russian people are sadly going to go up and up and up the longer that Putin persists with this naked aggression.”

Pelosi and Schiff, joined by several other Democrats, were back in Washington after a week of travel overseas, including visits to Israel, the United Kingdom and Munich, where they’d attended an annual conference on global security. The trip began before Putin had escalated the hostilities toward Ukraine, but that episode quickly took center stage in discussions with other global leaders, Pelosi said. 

The Speaker stressed the importance of maintaining a unified front among NATO and other allies in confronting Russia over its gambit in Ukraine — a level of cooperation that might affect some elements of the response, she suggested, but would pay dividends for the strength of numbers.

“Remember, we’re doing this together,” she said. 

Putin, who had suffered tough sanctions in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has reportedly braced the country for another cycle of international penalties by stockpiling currency and trimming Russia’s debt obligations in the years since then. 

Still, Pelosi predicted the sanctions would ultimately prove effective when Russia’s wealthiest people grow frustrated with the new limits on their finances and travel — and the country’s working class gains awareness of just how lavishly the oligarchs live.     

“The Russian people,” she said, “have to see how they have been exploited by their own government.” 

Tags Adam Schiff Crisis invasion Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Nord Stream 2 pipeline Russia sanctions Speaker Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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