WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced “severe” economic sanctions that will make President Vladimir Putin a “pariah” for invading Ukraine, but acknowledged a lack of Western unity for enacting an even harsher measure.
In a speech from the White House, Biden said that four major banks would be sanctioned by Western powers and that export controls on sensitive components would “cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.”
“This will impose a severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time,” Biden said.
The measures, in addition to a host of other sanctions already announced this week, will make Putin “a pariah on the international stage,” Biden said.
“Any nation that accepts Russia’s open aggression against Ukraine will be tainted by association,” he said.
Biden confirmed that, for now, there was no attempt to impose sanctions directly on Putin, who is widely said to have amassed a huge secret fortune during his two decades in power.
He also said that a much talked about move to kick Russia out of the SWIFT international payments system, essentially crippling its banking sector, was not happening.
Ukraine advocated pulling Russia out of SWIFT on Thursday, but Biden revealed the Western coalition was unable to reach a deal.
“It’s always an option, but right now that’s not the position the rest of Europe wants to take,” he said.
– G7 closes ranks –
Biden spoke to the nation after attending a closed-door virtual meeting that lasted one hour and 10 minutes with the Group of Seven.
The group of wealthy Western democracies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — said it stands firm against Russia’s “threat to the rules-based international order.”
Biden tweeted that the G7 leaders “agreed to advance devastating sanctions packages and other economic measures to hold Russia accountable. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine.”
In a joint statement, the seven industrial powers also said they were “ready to act” to minimize disruptions to world energy markets as a result of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and with sanctions already targeting a major oil pipeline from the big energy producer. Russia.
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain was freezing the British assets of Russian titans in banking and arms manufacturing, sanctioning five more oligarchs and banning Aeroflot.
And Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Thursday that Western sanctions were aimed at “cutting off the Russian economy from industrial progress” and targeting and freezing assets and financial holdings, and…drastically limiting access to European markets and Americans.
– Next step –
A first round of Western sanctions was unleashed on Tuesday, after Putin announced he would send troops as “peacekeepers” to two small areas already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
The US government has joined European allies in imposing sanctions on two Russian banks, Moscow’s sovereign debt, various oligarchs and other measures.
Then on Wednesday, when the Russian invasion force was clearly poised to strike, Biden announced that he would impose sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to Germany, one of Moscow’s most high-profile geopolitical projects.
Germany had previously announced that it would block the opening of the pipeline for deliveries.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price warned this week that “no Russian financial institution is safe.”
Some measures risk causing economic consequences for Western countries and could jeopardize the recovery of the world economy after the Covid pandemic. Stock markets are already falling and oil prices are soaring above $100 a barrel.
The SWIFT option in particular is considered problematic. At least for some time it would disconnect Russia from basic trade, greatly disrupting Putin’s economy, but it would also have considerable potential repercussions on the broader US-led financial system.