Thursday, February 24, 2022

President Biden Announces Harsh New Round of Economic Sanctions Against Russia (VIDEO)

I watched Biden's speech and press conference live this morning. He looked sharp, actually. Seemed fired up and outraged by Russia's invasion and he announced some serious motherfucking sanctions. The U.S. is going hit Russian financial institutions hard, basically shutting down four major banks controlling $100s of billions dollars, and going directly after the assets of Vladimir Putin's billionaire oligarch stooges. 

There's still much economic damage the U.S. can inflict. On the military side, the Pentagon's announced it's sending 7,000 U.S. service personnel to Europe, to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.

There's so much on the line and the news coverage is voluminous and literally impossible to read and view it all. I'll have updates through the night. 

At the Wall Street Journal, "Biden Aims Sanctions at Russian Military, State-Owned Enterprises":

WASHINGTON—President Biden promised to make Russian President Vladimir Putin an international pariah as he announced a wave of new sanctions intended to cripple Russia’s economy, military and elites, the latest effort to punish Moscow for launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Mr. Biden said during a speech at the White House on Thursday.

The president said the coming sanctions would stunt Russia’s military growth, limit the country’s ability to compete on the world stage and put restrictions on its largest state-owned enterprises. The Treasury Department said the actions target 80% of all banking assets in Russia and limit the country’s access to the global financial system.

Taken together, the sanctions announced by the Biden administration this week are unprecedented in their scope and impact on Russia’s post-Soviet relations with the West. Moscow’s markets are signaling the scale of the potential impact on Russia’s economy. Since Western nations began warning three months ago that they would respond with a tough sanctions package, the Moscow Exchange has lost 50% of its value and the ruble depreciated by 20%.

Senior Biden administration officials have said the threat of sanctions was intended in part to deter Mr. Putin from invading Ukraine. But the Russian leader attacked the country anyway. Mr. Biden said it would take time for Moscow to feel the effects of the financial penalties. ”Let’s have a conversation in another month or so to see if they’re working,” he said.

Thursday’s announcement, which Mr. Biden said was coordinated with the Group of Seven countries, came after lawmakers of both political parties called on the U.S. president to come down on Mr. Putin with the full suite of sanctions at the government’s disposal.

Among the targets of the new sanctions: Russia’s first- and second-largest financial institutions, Sberbank and VTB. The package sanctions additional Russian elites and their families, and places new restrictions on exports to Russia of technological goods used in the country’s defense, maritime and aerospace sectors.

The restrictions on goods destined for Russia, which took effect Thursday, apply to technology such as semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, information security equipment, lasers and sensors. They cover items produced in the U.S., as well as foreign items made using U.S. equipment, software and blueprints, the Treasury Department said in a statement. U.S. officials said they are also restricting exports to 49 additional Russian military entities, placing them on a blacklist.

The administration expanded its bans on trade of new government debt, adding short-term securities and new equity of 11 Russian state-owned companies and two major privately owned firms in the financial services sector. Those include the natural-gas behemoth Gazprom; Sovcomflot, Russia’s largest maritime and freight shipping company; plus its biggest telecoms firm and the No. 1 power company.

“We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximize a long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our allies,” Mr. Biden said.

The administration also announced sanctions on 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, including two state-owned banks and nine defense firms, for supporting the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Mr. Biden said in his remarks that any country that helped Russia would be “stained by association.”

The new effort doesn’t take steps to disconnect Russia from the Swift global payment system, a move that policy makers said could be a significant blow to Moscow. “The sanctions that we have imposed on all their banks are of equal consequence, maybe more consequence, than Swift, No. 1,” Mr. Biden said. “No. 2, it is always an option, but right now that is not the position that the rest of Europe wants to take.”

The blacklisting won’t hit Russia as hard, nor cause the collateral damage to Europe or the world economy that cutting off the world’s 12th-largest economy—and a top oil exporter—from the global-payments system would wreak, say economists and former U.S. officials.

Top officials in Ukraine and countries along the European Union’s border with Russia, as well as U.S. lawmakers from both parties, called for Moscow to be disconnected from the Swift system. Some U.S. lawmakers have privately pressed the White House on the issue, according to people familiar with the matter.

Removing an economy of the size and geopolitical importance of Russia’s from Swift would be an unprecedented sanction by Western allies—one that would eliminate Russia’s ability, at first, to conduct basic commerce with the outside world. But opponents say such a move could help build up workarounds to circumvent the global American-led financial order.

The Swift option is a bludgeon in the economic warcraft arsenal, compared with targeted sanctions, which provide precision and diplomatic flexibility for policy makers. The West has much better control of the flow of international finance and can raise or lower the pressure. Cross-border payments are still possible under the current package, and governments could carve out exemptions.

Mr. Biden suggested on Thursday that he is weighing additional economic penalties. He told reporters that he would consider sanctioning Mr. Putin directly...

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