Biden's White House speech: What did he say about Russia, Ukraine and economic sanctions for Putin?
President Biden outlined the next stage of the US' involvement in Eastern Europe, promising tough sanctions if Russia refuses to remove troops from the Donbas region.
The past two days have seen two key escalations from Moscow in relation to Ukraine which have brought almost universal condemnation from the West and prompted President Biden to hold a White House press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he was officially recognising the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine as independent. This area is comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Then in the early hours of Tuesday morning footage shared online showed Russian troops moving into Ukraine, heightening tensions in the region. Here’s how the President responded in his White House address on Tuesday…
Biden describes “the beginning of a Russian invasion"
In one of the key moments of the White House speech, Biden described Russia’s military action in Eastern Europe as an “invasion” for the first time. In recent weeks the White house has been at pains to avoid using the term, possibly due to concern that such an accusation could further antagonise Putin.
The Russian President had previously claimed that the near-180,000 troops amassed along the Ukrainian border were simply conducting military exercises in land controlled by Russia. However events over the last two days have seen that portrayal fall apart and Biden was left with little choice but to decry Russia’s aggressive troop movement.
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Tough financial sanctions promised against Russia
Biden has reiterated numerous times that he will not deploy US troops to fight in Ukraine, but will rely instead on economic sanctions to dissuade Putin from invading. In the speech he outlined the first wave of measures to be put in place.
In what he described as the “first tranche” of sanctions, Biden said the US would be placing restrictions on Russian bank VEB and Russia’s sovereign debt, to prevent the nation from benefitting from Western financing. Biden warned of more sanctions to hit "Russia’s elites and their family members” in the coming days.
"As Russia contemplates this next move, we have our next move prepared as well. Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions," he said.
The US will continue to support NATO countries against Russian expansion
Although there is no prospect of Americans being sent to Ukraine to fight, the US response to Russia will include a military dimension. Ukraine is not a member of NATO but the likes of Germany, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are. In recent weeks Biden has moved thousands of US troops to these nations to bolster the NATO military presence in the region.
“Let me be clear, these are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said. “We want to send an unmistakable message though, that the United States - together with our allies - will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”
Biden will hope that this insulates Eastern Europe against the threat of continued Russian expansion without having to send troops to actively fight in the conflict.