The White House weighs how difficult it is to hit Putin with sanctions

The Biden administration said it was still debating Tuesday morning what package of sanctions to roll out against Vladimir V. Putin, his friends, and Russia’s financial system. But all early indications are that officials were planning to leave some troops in reserve in the hope of averting a much larger assault on Ukraine that could cause tens of thousands of casualties.

Early Tuesday morning, Jon Finer, Biden’s deputy national security adviser, said that Russian forces had begun entering Ukraine, declaring on CNN that “an invasion is invasion, and that’s it. what is being done”.

But he was quick to point out that the authorities could be restrained some of its promised punishment In the hope of deterrence, Mr. Putin’s further aggressive action is aimed at the rest of the country.

“We’ve always envisioned waves of sanctions that will unfold over time in response to steps where Russia actually doesn’t just make the statements it makes,” Finer said. “We have always said that we will monitor the situation on the ground and have a quick and stern response.”

Overnight, Mr. Biden and his aides consulted with allies, to have their response coordinated. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated the direction they were leaning when he told Parliament on Tuesday that “this is the first wave, the first wave of attacks on what we are prepared to do and we are ready to deploy the further sanctions along with the United States. Countries and the European Union if the situation escalates further”.

It’s one of those situations where Mr. Biden doesn’t have a really good choice. If his response seems too lenient, he will send a message to Mr. Putin that the world will not make him pay a heavy price for sending troops into the Russian-speaking eastern part of the country. – simulate what happened when the Russian leader. Crimea annexed Crimea in 2014. If all sanctions are implemented, Mr. Putin may conclude that there is nothing left to stop him from attacking the rest of the country.

Mr. Biden discussed the dilemma during a press conference in January. He said that if an attack was “a substantial short-term attack versus a substantial invasion”, he would impose sanctions, but only to the extent that European allies agree. And some allies are more at stake, including their gas supplies. “I have to make sure everyone is on the same page as we move forward,” Mr. Biden said.

It was at a press conference that he used the phrase “small incursions,” and then backed off, promising punishment if a Russian soldier entered Ukraine. But his words revealed how he thinks about the matter. If “there are Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, etc. – I think that will change everything”.

Mr. Biden also said in that press conference that “the most important thing to do: Great nations cannot deceive,” a phrase that has now drawn criticism after saying for weeks that even even a soldier crossing the border into Ukraine will also activate. a series of sanctions against Russia.

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