Joe Biden’s new package of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine hits some Russian banks. Still, it stops short of his earlier pledge to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin personally or disqualify Russian participation in the international banking system.
Biden said Thursday that new US sanctions target around $1 trillion of Russian assets held internationally. He added that every Russian asset in America is being frozen.
The new sanctions do not terminate Russia’s access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system. That system is managed by the National Bank of Belgium and handles a substantial part of all international business transactions.
When questioned why he was not cutting Russia off from SWIFT, Biden stated that the financial penalties he was applying were of “equal, if not greater, consequence” than SWIFT. He also said that “the rest of Europe” did not want to cut Russia out of SWIFT participation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has explicitly demanded that Russia be disconnected from SWIFT. He has also called for the much more radical imposition of a NATO/US “no-fly zone” over Ukraine, which would likely be considered an open act of warfare.
During his press appearance Thursday, Biden went on to say that sanctions were never intended to prevent or deter a Russian invasion. He stated that “no one expected” sanctions to prevent an invasion and that it “will take time.”
Biden’s comments conflicted with earlier statements by Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh. They both said that the purpose of previous sanctions was always deterrence. Singh said that sanctions were meant to “prevent and deter” a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the capital city of Kyiv.
Biden’s newly announced sanctions also exclude Russian energy exports. He said that in specifically allowing “energy payments to continue,” he worked with other nations to “secure global energy supplies.”
Biden also hinted that he would ask for the release of oil from the United States’ strategic reserve in collaboration with other countries to address a supply shortage and higher costs.