White House officials said President Biden will impose sanctions on separatist regions in eastern Ukraine whose independence Russia recognized on Monday.credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times
White House officials said Monday that President Biden will impose economic sanctions on the two breakaway regions of Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin has recognized as independent, but have not imposed any direct sanctions on Russia.
A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said President Biden was still assessing Russia’s actions in the wake of Mr. Putin’s decree ordering troops into breakaway regions.
The official did not rule out severe sanctions against Russia, but said the United States would “evaluate what Russia does and not focus on what Russia says.”
The official condemned Mr. Putin’s hour-long speech on Monday, calling it an “attack on the idea of an independent and sovereign Ukraine”. In his speech, Mr. Putin claimed that Ukraine owed its establishment of its state to the Soviet Union.
The limited nature of the initial sanctions appears intended to allow the United States and its European allies to keep the more aggressive sanctions they have threatened to impose on Moscow if Mr. Putin sends Russia’s armed forces into Ukraine, with little prospect of a diplomatic solution.
European allies condemned the Russian move as a violation of international law and said they supported sanctions. But the relative restraint of U.S. steps could also reflect debates among allies about what actions Russia should take that should lead to full sanctions and the difficulty of developing a unified and proportionate response to additional steps by Mr. Putin.
In a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Putin’s move a “flagrant violation of Russia’s international obligations” and said Biden would soon issue an executive order banning investment, trade and financing with people in the two countries. regions of Ukraine.
“To be clear: These measures are separate and will be in addition to the rapid and dangerous economic measures we are preparing in coordination with allies and partners in the event of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Ms. Psaki said in the statement.
But there was pressure on Biden from members of both parties to act quickly and forcefully with a full set of sanctions.
“It is time to intensify sanctions” and that Europe will support stronger measures, Representative John Garamendi, a California Democrat who is in Brussels for talks with allies, said on CNN.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina wrote on twitter “Putin’s decision to declare eastern Donetsk and Luhansk autonomous regions within Ukraine is a violation of the Minsk agreements and a declaration of war against the people of Ukraine.”
he added: “His decision must be met immediately with severe sanctions for destroying the ruble and crushing the Russian oil and gas sector.”
The Biden administration’s response echoed the reactions of European allies to the hour-long performance by Mr. Putin, who angrily aired decades of Russian complaints about Ukraine, NATO and the United States.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, criticized Mr. Putin, saying on twitter Russia’s recognition of the two regions “is a flagrant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the Minsk agreements.”
In a joint statement with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the two leaders wrote that the EU “will respond by imposing sanctions on those involved in this illegal act,” and that it “reiterates its unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”
White House officials said Biden spoke with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, for 35 minutes after concluding Mr. Putin’s speech. Ms. Psaki did not provide any details about the call, but said the US “continues to consult closely with allies and partners, including Ukraine”.