Psaki Struggles to Explain How Sanctions Are ‘Deterrent’ After Putin Acts

Jen Psaki (Drew Angerer / Getty)
Drew Angerer / Getty

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki struggled to explain how sanctions against Russia are a “deterrent” after the threat of sanctions failed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from “invading” two separatist areas in eastern Ukraine.

For weeks, the Biden administration pushed back against the idea of using sanctions against Russia, especially the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, to cut funds for a potential Russian invasion, claiming sanctions would be more effective as a deterrent.

Earlier this week, Putin recognized the independence of the two separatist areas and sent troops there, though Russian forces have been fighting there for some time. Biden announced NATO sanctions and the suspension of Nord Stream 2 in response.

Biden and Psaki described the sanctions as a “first tranche,” implying that more sanctions were ready to be used if Russia further invaded Ukraine. Both have described such an invasion as highly likely — while also claiming to have deterred Putin.

When asked how sanctions could be a deterrent after they had failed to deter Putin, and if the administration still expected an invasion, Psaki struggled to answer. She also struggled to explain why the U.S. had not sanctioned President Putin himself.

Then-President Donald Trump sanctioned the Nord Stream 2 pipeline preemptively, in an effort to bar Russia from using its natural gas resources to gain geopolitical leverage over Europe. Biden dropped those sanctions on taking office in 2021.

In 2014, Putin invaded and annexed Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula that was recognized internationally as being sovereign Ukrainian territory. At the time, Psaki joined a global campaign to use hashtags on Twitter to pressure Russia, which failed.

Psaki said that Biden was doing everything he could to restrain energy prices during the crisis, though she did not announce a resumption of the Keystone XL pipeline that Biden canceled last year, which had already passed environmental review.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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