(CNSNews.com) – President Biden declared at the White House on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be “a pariah” for invading Ukraine, but asked several times about the decision not to sanction Putin personally, he did not answer.
For the second time in two days, the administration announced sweeping new sanctions against Russia. But while the targets are significant and wide-ranging, they do not include the man who ordered his military to attack a neighbor, and issued what appeared to be a veiled threat of nuclear retaliation should “outside” nations interfere and threaten Russia and its people.
Among the sanctions targets announced on Tuesday and Thursday are a total of 15 Russian individuals, five of whom are already under U.S. sanctions.
In his East Room remarks, Biden said that “Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will end up costing Russia dearly, economically and strategically. We will make sure of that. Putin will be a pariah on the international stage.”
Minutes later a reporter asked the president about the option of sanctioning Putin himself.
“You said in recent weeks that big nations cannot bluff when it comes to something like this,” she said. “You recently said that the idea of personally sanctioning President Putin was on the table. Is that a step that you’re prepared to take, and if not—
“It’s not a bluff,” Biden interjected. “It’s on the table.”
“Sanctioning President Putin?”
“Why not sanction him today, sir?” the reporter asked.
Biden did not answer, but pointed to another reporter.
She asked again, “Why not sanction him today?” and the president pointed again to another reporter.
As Biden walked out at the conclusion of the briefing, a reporter called after him, “Are you sanctioning President Putin?”
Asked last month if he could envisage the prospect of Putin personally being sanctioned, should Russia invade Ukraine, Biden replied “yes,” then added, “I would see that.”
Thursday’s sanctions announcement included the designation of six individuals “close to Putin” – three men and their three sons – and four “financial sector elites.”
Of the six Putin allies, three are already under U.S. sanctions. They are Sergei Ivanov, now environmental protection special envoy, and former defense minister and Kremlin chief of staff (sanctioned in 2014); Igor Sechin, management board chairman of state-owned oil giant Rosneft and former deputy prime minister (sanctioned in 2014); and Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian security council (sanctioned in 2018).
Earlier this week, the U.S. sanctioned five other individuals “in Putin’s inner circle,” two of them already under U.S. sanctions, imposed last March in response to the attempted murder of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in 2020.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez on Thursday welcomed the new sanctions, but pointed to the absence of other measures, including sanctions targeting Putin himself.
“As we seek to impose maximum costs on Putin, there is more that we can and should do. Congress and the Biden administration must not shy away from any options – including sanctioning the Russian Central Bank, removing Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system, crippling Russia’s key industries, sanctioning Putin personally, and taking all steps to deprive Putin and his inner circle of their assets,” he said.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Biden “must immediately impose devastating sanctions on Putin, his family and all his thugs.”
“Putin is 100% responsible for this unjustified war and the consequences of his invasion must be personal and completely unbearable for him and his cronies,” Scott said.
Current or former heads of state personally sanctioned by the U.S. government in past years include Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Burmese junta leader Than Shwe, Charles Taylor in Liberia, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
Sanctions Against Russia Include Designation of ‘Elites’ – But Not Putin (Feb. 22, 2022)