President Joe Biden snapped at a reporter Thursday who confronted him over contradictory statements about the purpose of American-imposed sanctions on Russia.
What is the background?
The Biden administration infamously waited until Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine to impose harsh sanctions on Russian leaders, businesses, and the Russian economy.
The purpose of sanctions, the Biden administration has maintained repeatedly, is deterrence.
- Vice President Kamala Harris said on Feb 20: "The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence."
- National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Feb 11: "The President believes that sanctions are intended to deter."
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Feb 20: "The purpose of the sanctions in the first instance is to try to deter Russia from going to war."
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki has reportedly said the purpose of sanctions is to have a "deterrent impact" or deterrent effect."
What happened with Biden?
During a press conference at NATO headquarters in Belgium, CBS News correspondent Christina Ruffini confronted Biden after he announced that NATO had agreed to imporse additional sanctions against Russia.
"Sir, deterrence didn’t work. What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you’ve taken today?" Ruffini asked.
In response, Biden claimed that he has never said sanctions are meant to deter Russia.
Let’s get something straight: You remember, if you’ve covered me from the beginning, I did not say that in fact the sanctions would deter him. Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter. The maintenance of sanctions — the maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain, and the demonstration — why I asked for this NATO meeting today — is to be sure that after a month, we will sustain what we’re doing not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year. That’s what will stop him.
When Ruffini asked her question again — whether new actions would "have an impact on making Russia change course in Ukraine" — Biden accused Ruffini of "playing a game."
"That’s not what I said. You, you — you’re playing a game with me," Biden chided.
"The answer is no," the president continued. "The single most important thing is for us to stay unified, and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people’s lives that are being lost and ruined, and what’s going on. That’s the important thing."
Biden holds press conference at NATO headquarters youtu.be
What about NBC News?
While reporting on Biden's remarks, NBC News correspondent Kelly O'Donnell fact-checked the president.
"The president just said that the sanctions and other measures they've taken were not about deterrence, and yet deterrence is a word we frequently hear from senior White House officials about the purpose of having financial constrictions on Russia," O'Donnell said.