Biden’s Sanctions Package Seems Calculated to Avoid Damaging Russia’s Economy So Why Bother? – Opinion

Joe Biden was the beggar of the Free World. He shuffled to a lectern Thursday morning and declared the sanctions he would impose upon Russia, which launched an invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday night.

You can find the transcript from this press conference at the bottom.

In the past, Biden has promised “severe sanctions” against Russia should it do what it did Wednesday. He also threatened Vladimir Putin by imposing personal sanctions. Putin accepted the Ukrainian region of Donetsk as independent on Monday (Vladimir Putin Rules the Table in Ukraine, Shows Joe Biden to be a Feckless Security Partner), and sent Russian peacekeepers into the regions. (Vladimir Putin Sends Russian Peacekeeping Troops to Eastern Ukraine). My post on Biden’s sanctions lays bare the fact that they were blue-smoke-and-mirrors designed to deceive the American people while doing virtually nothing to penalize Russia. The bank that was sanctioned had been subject to U.S. Sanctions since 2014. This amounts to super-double special sanctions.

Yesterday we relied on a developed list by  Marshall Billingslea,  Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the Trump Treasury department, I provided a checklist of potential sanctions in descending order of severity (Preview of Joe Biden’s Speech on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine).

  • It is necessary to sanction the Russian Central Bank.
  • You should not only sanction a handful of banks but the whole financial sector.
  • SWIFT Ban Russia
  • Other export industries (minerals, lumber) can be sanctioned
  • Impose full export controls
  • Putin is the one who was sanctioned.
  • All major oligarchs must be sanctioned
  • You must pay for oil and natural gas in blocked escrow accounts that are not held by Russian financial institutions.

Biden didn’t do any of them. Billingslea reviewed the sanctionsThey were actually applied and assessed for their effectiveness.

The sanctions are listed below at 1/10 I believe the sanctions aren’t severe enough not to shock the Russian economy or cause Putin to reconsider. However, the impact of sanctions against VTB (Sberbank) and VTB on VTB will be felt. Many other banks remain unaffected.

2/10 Because the GoR dominates the financial services industry, they are able to shift assets & reconstitute sanctioned banks to evade our measures. Russia could avoid the bank-specific designations by not naming all of its financial sectors.

3/10 The Russian Government holds a majority of 4 out 5 sanctioned banks today. They also own 100% of the two banks Biden sanctioned on 2 days ago.

4/10 By not designating the Central Bank, & by using the EU as an excuse not to go after SWIFT, Biden has not disrupted Russia’s cross-border & multi-currency settlement process. This means Russia’s ability to export & run a major balance of trade surplus hasn’t been degraded…

5/10 And this matters because, among other things, the Central Bank will burn through foreign reserves far less quickly as it tries to shore up the rouble and fights off inflation — things that could generate mass unrest & real discontent with Putin.

6/10 Biden did not target money-making sectors in their economy. No sectoral sanctions on metals & minerals, timber, plastics, or machine parts (all of which account for ~30% of Russia’s trade surplus). His expansion of equity/debt restrictions on SOEs is a good thing.

7/10 He explicitly left oil and gas exports untounched, though he could have adopted a “lock-box” approach using blocked escrow accounts, as we did in the case of Iran. Russia fuels much of its budget (incl military) through extraction taxes, export duties, & a profit-based levy.

8/10 No sanctions today on any of the really “big-fish” oligarchs, or on Putin himself.

9/10 Biden appears to have fulfilled certain export restrictions that, along with the equity and debt restrictions, will gradually reduce the economic competitiveness and profitability of some Russian SOEs and companies. This may not be immediately apparent, @POTUS admitted.

10/10 The @POTUS repeated his promise that his sanctions would become more effective over time. Unfortunately, with war erupting in Europe & civilians dying, time is not a luxury we have. Biden was given the chance to shock the Russian system with a devastating, consequential blow. But he didn’t.

What did not happen were the imposition of either “severe sanctions,” and the architect of the crisis, Vladimir Putin, was not personally sanctioned. Biden continued to claim that it was more harsh than banning some Russian banks from accessing the SWIFT international financial network. They have 30 days to shut down the operations of sanctioned banks in America.  The Russian “energy sector” is off-limits to all sanctions.

When one digs into the definition of “energy sector,” one finds it is rather expansive.

For the purposes of this general license, the term “related to energy” means the extraction, production, refinement, liquefaction, gasification, regasification, conversion, enrichment, fabrication, transport, or purchase of petroleum, including crude oil, lease condensates, unfinished oils, natural gas liquids, petroleum products, natural gas, or other products capable of producing energy, such as coal, wood, or agricultural products used to manufacture biofuels, or uranium in any form, as well as the development, production, generation, transmission, or exchange of power, through any means, including nuclear, thermal, and renewable energy sources.

Russia has the opportunity to export wood products, which is about $10 billion annually. Russia also continues to export biomass (mainly wood pellets), products worth several billion dollars. However the numbers aren’t clear. Additionally, Russian coal briquettes exports are substantial at around $15 billion and $18 billion respectively.

Below is the text of this letter.

Energy Sanctions Against Russia by streiff at Scribd

Biden had the opportunity and the reason to hammer Russia with sanctions that would put Vladimir Putin’s hold on power in doubt. He didn’t. Instead, he chose to make a symbolic gesture that doesn’t do much to punish Russia. Worse than that, he’s teaching our adversaries that sanctions are meaningless, and they are better off simply taking whatever action they wish and brushing off the consequences.


THE PRESIDENT Good afternoon. Without provocation and without any justification, the Russian military launched a vicious assault against the Ukrainian people without reason.

This is an attack that has been planned. Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months, as I’ve been — as we’ve been saying all along. He has moved over 175,000 military personnel and troops to the positions near the Ukrainian border.

The man moved the blood supplies to their proper positions and constructed a field hospital. That tells you everything you needed about his motives.

He rejected any good-faith attempt by the United States and its Allies to resolve our mutual security issues through dialogue, to prevent needless conflict and to avoid human suffering.

For weeks — for weeks, we have been warning that this would happen. And now it’s unfolding largely as we predicted.

In the past week, we’ve seen shelling increase in the Donbas, the region in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Rus- — the Russian government has perpetrated cyberattacks against Ukraine.

We saw a staged political theater in Moscow — outlandish and baseless claims that Ukraine was — Ukraine was about to invade and launch a war against Russia, that Ukraine was prepared to use chemical weapons, that Ukraine committed a genocide — without any evidence.

In attempting unilaterally to create two so-called republics in sovereign Ukrainian territory, we saw an egregious violation of international law.

And at the very moment that the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty to stave off invasion, Putin declared his war.

Within moments — moments, missile strikes began to fall on historic cities across Ukraine.

Next came the air attacks, then tanks and troops rolled in.

We’ve been transparent with the world. We’ve shared declassified evidence about Russia’s plans and cyberattacks and false pretexts so that there can be no confusion or cover-up about what Putin was doing.

Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose to wage war. Now, he will have to pay the price for his actions.

Today, I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia.

It will impose serious costs on Russia’s economy both now and later.

These sanctions were designed to have the greatest long-term effect on Russia, and the least impact possible on America and its Allies.

It isn’t just the United States doing it alone, I will be clear. For months, we’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well more than half of the global economy.

Twenty-seven members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy — as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and many others — to amplify the joint impact of our response.

Just spoke to the G7 leaders today, and I am in complete and total agreement. We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in Dollars, Euros, Pounds, and Yen to be part of the global economy. They will be limited in their ability to achieve this. We are going to stunt the ability to finance and grow Rus- — the Russian military.

We’re going to impose major — and we’re going to impair their ability to compete in a high-tech 21st century economy.

We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on Russia’s currency, the Ruble, which early today hit its weakest level ever — ever in history. Today, the Russian stock exchange plunged. The Russian government’s borrowing rate spiked by over 15 percent.

In today’s actions, we have now sanctioned Russian banks that together hold around $1 trillion in assets.

We’ve cut off Russia’s largest bank — a bank that holds more than one third of Russia’s banking assets by itself — cut it off from the U.S. financial system.

And today, we’re also blocking four more major banks. All assets they may have in America will also be frozen. V.T.B. is the largest bank in Russia with $250 billion.

As promised, we’re also adding names to the list of Russian elites and their family members that are sanctioning — that we’re sanctioning as well.

As I said on Tuesday, these are people who personally gain from the Kremlin’s policies and they should share in the pain. In the coming days, we will continue to drumbeat those names against corrupt billionaires.

We stopped Tuesday’s Russian government raising funds from European or U.S investors.

Now, we’re going to apply the same restrictions to Russia’s largest state-owned enterprises — companies with assets that exceed $1.4 trillion.

Some of the most powerful impacts of our actions will come over time as we squeeze Russia’s access to finance and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and degrade its industrial capacity for years to come.

Between our actions and those of our Allies and partners, we estimate that we’ll cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports.

This will severely impact their ability to keep their military modernized. It’ll degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program. Their ability to construct ships will be affected, which could impact their competitiveness economically. And it will be a major hit to Putin’s long-term strategic ambitions.

And we’re preparing to do more. In addition to the economic penalties we’re imposing, we’re also taking steps to defend our NATO Allies, particularly in the east.

Tomorrow, NATO will convene a summit — we’ll be there — to bring together the leaders of 30 Allied nations and close partners to affirm our solidarity and to map out the next steps we will take to further strengthen all aspects of our NATO Alliance.

Although we provided over $650 million in defensive assistance to Ukraine just this year — this last year, let me say it again: Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine. Our troops are not traveling to Europe to support NATO Allies or to attack Ukraine.

It was clear that the United States would defend all of NATO’s territory using its full power. Good news: NATO has never been more united or more determined.

There is no doubt — no doubt that the United States and every NATO Ally will meet our Article 5 commitments, which says that an attack on one is an attack on all.

In support of NATO’s commitment, I sent thousands of troops to Germany over the past weeks.

On Tuesday, in response to Russia’s aggressive action, including its troop presence in Belarus and the Black Sea, I’ve authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern flank Allies: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

Our Allies have also been stepping up, adding — the other Allies, the rest of NATO — adding their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.

And today, within hours of Russia’s unleashing its assault, NATO came together and authorized and activated — an activation of response plans.

This will enable NATO’s high-readiness forces to deploy and — when and where they’re needed to protect our NATO Allies on the eastern boundaries of Europe.

And now I’m authorizing additional U.S. forces and capabilities to deploy to Germany as part of NATO’s response, including some of U.S.-based forces that the Department of Defense placed on standby weeks ago.

I’ve also spoken with Defense Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, about preparations for additional moves should they become necessary to protect our NATO Allies and support the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world — NATO.

As we respond, my administration is using the tools — every tool at our disposal to protect American families and businesses from rising prices at the gas pump.

You know, we’re taking active steps to bring down the costs. And American oil and gas companies should not — should not exploit this moment to hike their prices to raise profits.

We specifically created our sanctions package to permit energy payments to continue.

Our attention is on any disruption of energy supply. In our shared interest of securing global energy supplies, we coordinate with the major oil-consuming and producing countries.

Our active collaboration with other countries is a key part of our efforts to improve the quality of life in all parts. [evaluate]A global release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves major energy-consuming country. Additional barrels will be released by the United States if conditions warrant.

It is difficult. I also know that Americans are suffering. The pain Americans feel at the gas station will be minimized. I consider this a critical issue.

This aggression must be stopped. The consequences would be even worse for America if it were. America is strong against bullies. Freedom is our goal. This is who and what we are.

Also, let me repeat last week’s caution: We will respond if Russia attempts cyberattacks on our companies or our critical infrastructure.

For months, we have been working closely with our private — with the private sector to harden their cyber defenses, sharpen our ability to respond to Russian cyberattacks as well.

Late last night I met with President Zelenskyy from Ukraine. I assured him that America, along with its Allies, would support Ukraine’s defense. We’ll provide humanitarian relief to ease their suffering.

In the initial days of the conflict, Russian propaganda outlets will continue to try and hide the truth in order to claim victory for their military operations against a fake threat.

But history has shown time and again how swift gains in territory eventually give way to grinding occupations, acts of mass civil — mass civil disobedience, and strategic dead-ends.

Ukraine’s people will experience a lot of pain over the next weeks and months. Putin has caused great distress to them. However, the Ukrainian people have experienced 30 years independence. They have proven time and again that they are not willing to tolerate anyone trying to take over their country.

This dangerous time is for Europe as well as freedom all around the globe. Putin has a — has committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace.

But now the entire world sees clearly what Putin and his Kremlin — and his Kremlin allies are really all about. It was not about security. It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for empire by any means necessary — by bullying Russia’s neighbors through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force, and, ultimately, by choosing a war without a cause.

Putin’s actions betray his sinister vision for the future of our world — one where nations take what they want by force.

It is an idea that both the United States of America and all freedom-loving countries around the world will fight with every weapon in their considerable power to oppose.

America and its Allies and Partners will be stronger and more united. They’ll also emerge more determined, focused, and more purposeful.

And Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will end up costing Russia dearly — economically and strategically. This will not be allowed. Putin will become a laughing stock on the international stage. Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association.

When the history of this era is written, Putin’s choice to make a totally unjustifiable war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.

Liberty, democracy, human dignity — these are the forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. Tyrants such as Putin and his army cannot extinguish them. They cannot be erased by people — from people’s hearts and hopes by any amount of violence and intimidation. They will endure.

Make no mistake, freedom will win in the battle between democracy, autocracy and sovereignty.

God bless Ukraine and all its people. May God also protect our troops.

Q President Biden —

THE PRESIDENT – Zeke, Associated Press

Q Chris Megerian. Are you planning to talk with President Putin now? What interactions did you have with the Russian government in the past?


Q How have you communicated with the Kremlin regarding military operations in Ukraine, and how can this be prevented from spiraling into larger conflicts?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a large conflict already. The way we’re going to assure it’s not going to spiral to a larger conflict is by providing all the forces needed in the Eastern European nations that are members of NATO. NATO is more united than it’s ever been.

I do not plan on talking with Putin.

Wall Street Journal Tarina [Tarini].

Q Mr. President, you didn’t mention SWIFT in your sanctions that you announced. Is there a reason why the U.S. isn’t doing that? Do Allies have differences about SWIFT, and should Russia be allowed to join it?

THE PRESIDENT: The sanctions that we have proposed on all their banks is of equal consequence — maybe more consequence than SWIFT — number one.

Second, this is always possible. But right now, that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.

Cecilia Ve- — Vega, A.B.C.

Q Thank you, sir. It is clear that sanctions have not sufficed to stop Vladimir Putin from reaching this point. How can he be stopped? When and how will this all end? Do you think he is trying to leave Ukraine?

And a second question I’ll just give to you now: This statement that he gave last night will — that the We- — the threat that he gave — the West “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history.” Is he threatening a nuclear strike?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea what he’s threatening. Number one, I am aware of what he did.

The second is that no one thought the sanctions could stop anything happening. That has to sh- — this is going to take time. And we have to show resolve so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them. That’s what this is all about.

It will take some time. It’s not going to occur — he’s going to say, “Oh my God, these sanctions are coming. I’m going to stand down.”

He’s going to test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together. Yes, we will. It will, and it will result in significant financial costs for him.

Q Sir, will he travel beyond Ukraine? Are you able to see him moving beyond Ukraine?

Q Mr. President — Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT: (Points for the reporter.) Yes.

Q These are two quick topics. First, the markets are declining and gas prices have risen. Although you stress the differences between Wall Street and Main Street in your speeches, it seems that everyone is feeling some economic pain. Is this going to be economically difficult for the people of this country?

Und ich habe noch eine Frage.

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, there’s no doubt that when a major nuclear power attacks and invades another country that the world is going to respond and markets are going to respond all over the world. So, there’s no doubt about that, number one.

Number two, the notion that this is going to last for a long time is highly unlikely, as long as we continue to stay resolved in imposing the sanctions we’re going to impose on Russia, period.

What’s your next question? I’m sorry.

Q Next, do you think Putin underestimated you? And would you still describe him the way that you did in the summer, as a “worthy adversary”?

THE PRESIDENT: At the time, he was — I made it clear he was an adversary, and I said he was “worthy.” I didn’t underestimate him.

And I’ve read most of everything he’s written. Did you read the — I shouldn’t sa- — I’m not being a wise guy. The — you heard the speech he made — almost an hour’s worth of speeches — why he was going into Ukraine.

He is more ambitious in Ukraine. In fact, he wants to reestablish former Soviet Union. That’s what this is about.

And I think that his — his ambitions are — are completely contrary to the place where the rest of the world has arrived.

Q President Biden — President Biden —

Q And — and with that — with his ambitions, you’re confident that these devastating sanctions are going to be as devastating as Russian missiles and bullets and tanks?

THE PRESIDENT (Yes) Russian missiles and guns in Ukraine. Yes.

Q Thank you, President Biden. How can sanctions stop President Putin?

THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t say sanctions couldn’t stop him.

Q But you’ve been talking about the threat of these sanctions for several weeks now —

The President: No, the threat of sanctions, imposing sanctions and watching the effects of sanctions are different.

Q Okay, but —

THE PRESIDENT: They’re two different things. And we’re now going to — he’s going to begin to see the effect of the sanctions.

Q And what will that do — how will that change his mindset here, given he’s attacking Ukraine as we speak?

THE PRESIDENT: Because it will so weaken his country that he’ll have to make a very, very difficult choices of whether to continue to move toward being a second-rate power or, in fact, respond.

Q In recent weeks you stated that large nations can’t bluff in situations like these. Recent statements by you indicated that sanctions against President Putin were on the horizon. Is that a step that you’re prepared to take? And if not —

THE PRESIDENT: It’s not a bluff; it’s on the table.

Putin being sanctioned


Q Sir, why not give him a sanction today? Q Why don’t you sanction him now, sir.

Q Mr. President —

Q Mr. President, if I can, you detailed some severe and swift new sanctions today and said the impact it will have over time, but given the full-scale invasion, given that you’re not pursuing disconnecting Russia from what’s called “SWIFT” — the international banking system — or other sanctions at your disposal, respectfully, sir, what more are you waiting for?

THE PRESIDENT: Specifically, the sanctions we’ve imposed exceed SWIFT. The sanctions we imposed exceed anything that’s ever been done. Two thirds of the globe joined us because we imposed sanctions. These are very serious sanctions. Let’s have a conversation in another month or so to see if they’re working.


Q Let me ask you about — can I ask you about Zelenskyy? Sir, you spoke to Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday, sir, if I could follow up —

Q What’s the risk that we are watching the beginning of another Cold War? Is there a total rupture between U.S.-Russian relations now?

THE PRESIDENT: There is a complete rupture right now in U.S.-Russian relations if they continue on this path that they’re on.

It all depends on what Cold War means. You have the vast majority of the rest of the world in total opposition to what he’s doing — from Asia to South America to Europe to acr- — around the world.

And so, it’s going to be a cold day for Russia. The idea — you don’t see a whole lot of people coming to his defense.

Q And are you — are you — if I could follow-up, sir. Do you want China to isolate Russia? Do you want China to isolate Russia?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not prepared to comment on that at the moment.

(Crosstalk by journalists.

Q Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT: Wait. No, no. (Points to the reporter. Yeah.

No, no, no. He’s had his hand up a long time.

Q I appreciate your kind words, Mr. Do you feel concerned about Putin’s plans to move beyond Ukraine to other countries. The U.S. would have to intervene if Putin moves into NATO nations.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if he did move into NATO countries, he will be involved — we will be involved. The only thing that I’m convinced of is: If we don’t stop now, he’ll be emboldened. If we don’t move against him now with these significant sanctions, he will be emboldened.

Look, you know, every — well, anyway.

Q And can you talk anything more about your conversation —

(Crosstalk by journalists.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.

Q Sir, India, which is a major defense partner of the United States — is India with — fully with you on the issue of Ukraine and Russia?

THE PRESIDENT: Does the Defense Department of the United States —

Q Sir. India is one your largest defense partners. Do you think India is fully in agreement with the United States regarding Russia?

THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to be — we’re in consultation with — with India today. We haven’t resolved that completely.

Q One more question —

(Crosstalk by journalists.

THE PRESIDENT We are grateful.

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