No, Joe Biden is not doing everything he can to pressure Vladimir Putin to immediately stop the war in Ukraine. Although the U.S. President says he has issued the toughest sanctions to economically suffocate the Russian government, the facts show that this is not so true and that there is still much more to be done.
Although the Biden administration knew that Putin would invade Ukraine, it decided to issue the first sanctions belatedly. Even after Russian soldiers launched the war with clearly explicit genocide, sanctions were imposed a little at a time in the hope that “diplomacy” would work.
On March 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Joe Biden, whom he asked to do more to “stop the aggressor:” “Just had a conversation with @POTUS. The American leadership on anti-Russian sanctions and defense assistance to Ukraine was discussed. We must stop the aggressor as soon as possible. Thank you for your support!” Zelensky said.
Two weeks later, more than 80 children have been killed in Ukraine by the Russian invasion, more than 1,500 civilians died in Mariupol and there are more than 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees, according to the records of international organizations. Still, sanctions and reactions are coming in dribs and drabs.
In late February, Biden announced sanctions against Russian banks; however, the Department of the Treasury quietly clarified that the sanctions will not apply to the banks’ energy transactions until June 24, meaning that the Wall Street market can continue to trade Russian oil and gas for at least four more months.
“The energy sector of the Russian Federation economy itself is not subject to comprehensive sanctions,” the Treasury website explained; a sign that while Putin savages the Ukrainians, the Western world is acting slowly, numbly.
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Indeed, Senator Rob Portman asked Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland on Tuesday to justify the decision, and explained that working “multilaterally” remained the top priority, so as not to harm energy-dependent “European allies.”
Another sanction announced by Biden this week was a ban on the import of Russian oil and gas; this, after Democrats and Republicans united in Congress to pass a law that would force him to do so.
A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article written by Kimberley A. Strassel revealed that the “White House has also demanded congressional Democrats stand down on a bipartisan bill that would suspend Russia’s preferential trading status with the U.S.” According to Strassel, Biden’s pressure arises to discuss the decision with his European allies beforehand.
According to Strassel, truly punitive sanctions against the Russian energy sector continue to be a curse for Europe, which, despite the destruction in Ukraine, wants to continue importing Russian oil.
Washington was not shocked by the invasion, nor was it a surprise that Putin has been surrounded by kleptocracy for decades. However, it is only now that it is beginning to issue sanctions against the Kremlin’s accomplices.
“Yes, Washington has targeted a handful of Putin cronies, but it’s only a sliver of the hundreds of oligarchs who hold Russia’s wealth,” Strassel said in explaining that the U.S. government has had a long list of Russian oligarchs that for years it has been unwilling to touch.
“The Biden team will argue that sanctions work best in conjunction with allies. No doubt. But the way to get the world to join in truly punishing and isolating Mr. Putin is to lead by example and to invite or shame allies into joining the fight,” said the WSJ columnist.
The world used to dance to the tune of the United States; now, it is the Americans who are depending on Europe to make key decisions to defeat Putin and end the invasion.