President Joe Biden on Thursday contradicted Vice President Kamala Harris’s assertion less than a week ago that Russian sanctions would “absolutely” deter Russia from invading Ukraine.
Speaking from the White House, Biden told reporters that “no one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,” referencing Russia’s Wednesday evening invasion of Ukraine. Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered a “special operation” into Ukraine that has resulted in ongoing heavy military clashes between the two countries and the Russian seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Before the invasion four days ago, Harris gave a nearly exact opposition opinion.
“Absolutely, we strongly believe [that],” Harris said when questioned by a reporter about the effectiveness of sanctions against Russia. “It will exact absolute harm for the Russian economy,” she said. “The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence.”
BIDEN, TODAY: "No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening."
HARRIS, SUNDAY: "The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence." pic.twitter.com/gIhTmRpXJb
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 24, 2022
Last week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden thought sanctions were actually meant to “deter” Russian aggression, contradicting Biden’s Thursday statement. “The President believes that sanctions are intended to deter,” he claimed:
On Feb. 11, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said that “the President believes that sanctions are intended to deter.”
Today, @potus told us: “No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening."
Those are basically the opposite of each other.
— Michael D. Shear (@shearm) February 24, 2022
The White House’s conflicting messaging comes after Biden said in January that if Russia invades, it will be held accountable.
“And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do,” Biden said during a press conference.
During Thursday’s press conference, Biden announced new sanctions on Russia, but none that target Vladimir Putin personally or the lucrative Russian energy industry. Biden refused to answer why he chose not to sanction Putin directly. Biden ignored the question multiple times, opting to answer questions from other reporters.
Also, @USTreasury says it's sanctioning "additional Russian elites and their family members and imposing additional new prohibitions related to new debt and equity of major Russian state-owned enterprises and large privately owned financial institutions."
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) February 24, 2022
Doocy asks Biden if he underestimated Putin pic.twitter.com/NKZpYuI9h0
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) February 24, 2022
The Germans have vetoed the U.S. from using Swift sanctions.
Biden deferred to them.
America First vs consensus
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) February 24, 2022
Flight radar shows aircrafts being diverted around Ukraine on Thursday after the country closed its airspace to civilian flights.
📸 FlightRadar24 pic.twitter.com/hW3yqA6J3g
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 24, 2022
Former Donald Trump criticized Biden’s sanctions on Tuesday as “weak” and “insignificant.”
“Russia has become very very rich during the Biden Administration, with oil prices doubling and soon to be tripling and quadrupling. The weak sanctions are insignificant relative to taking over a country and a massive piece of strategically located land,” Trump said in a statement.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also repeatedly criticized the lack of sanctions against Russia in the face of evidence that Putin would soon attack.
“Some leaders suggest a format of responding format (…) after a possible escalation on the part of Russia to introduce a strong sanctions policy,” Zelensky said in December. “Here, it seems to me that we were able to explain to our European colleagues that the sanctions policy following (such escalation – ed.) won’t matter to anyone.”