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President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced the U.S. will impose severe economic sanctions against Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two rebel regions of Ukraine as independent states.
Biden condemned actions Putin took on Monday, including deploying troops into eastern Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions to carry out "peacekeeping functions." Russia's Parliament also authorized the use of military force in Ukraine on Tuesday, which the president characterized as the beginning of an invasion.
"To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine," Biden said. "Last night, Putin authorized Russian forces to deploy into these regions. Today, he asserted that these regions actually extend deeper than the two areas he recognized, claiming large areas under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian government. He's setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view."
Biden announced that in response, the U.S. would impose sanctions "far beyond" those imposed against Russia in 2014, when Putin annexed the Crimean peninsula. The president called Putin's actions "a flagrant violation of international law" that "demands a firm response from the international community."
"Russia has now undeniably moved against Ukraine," Biden said.
The new sanctions will be levied against large Russian financial institutions and members of the country's elite, as well as their families. The United States will also place "comprehensive sanctions" on Russian debt.
“That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western finance,” Biden said. “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”
The president acknowledged that Americans will likely see rising gas prices as a result of levying sanctions against Russia.
“As I said last week, defending freedom will have costs, for us as well and here at home,” Biden said. “We need to be honest about that. But as we do this, I'm going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours.”
The president vowed to continue placing sanctions on Russia should Putin proceed with a further invasion of Ukraine. He also said that the U.S. is working with Germany to freeze the Nord Steam 2 pipeline project.
Earlier Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that his country has stopped the certification process for the pipeline, which Russia badly desires to be completed to permit Russian oil to flow directly to Germany, circumventing Ukrainian oil-transit taxes. The U.K. government also said it would sanction members of the Russian Parliament who voted to recognize the independence of the separatist regions in Ukraine.
“This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told U.K. lawmakers on Tuesday.
These actions come as western leaders struggle to develop a policy to contain Putin's ambitions to expand Russia's borders. In a fiery speech Monday, Putin showed his hand by condemning the fall of the Soviet Union and denying that Ukraine has a right to exist as a free state outside of Russian control.
Putin asserted that Russia has a national defense interest in protecting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking residents of the eastern part of Ukraine, remarks that drew comparisons to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's justification for the invasion of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.
His ultimate goal is the restoration of Russian greatness by reclaiming parts of the old Soviet empire, starting with Ukraine.
To shore up defenses in other Eastern European nations, Biden said he has authorized additional movements of U.S. forces and military equipment to "strengthen" allies in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
“Today, in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I have authorized additional movements of US forces and equipment, already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,” Biden said.
He emphasized that these forces are being stationed as a "defensive" move and that the door to a diplomatic resolution to the crisis remains open, should Russia be willing to deescalate.
"Whatever Russia does next, we're ready to respond with unity, clarity, and conviction," Biden said.
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