[This post has been updated.]
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden Thursday vowed a “united and decisive” wave of sanctions against Russia after the country’s leaders ordered a military assault on Ukraine.
Russian military forces began attacking several cities and towns throughout the country, according to multiple news reports. The Washington Post reported that a senior U.S. defense official said the incursion is taking place along three fronts designed to hit population centers and take down the Ukrainian government. Reuters reported that Russians had captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of a nuclear disaster in 1986.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
The Ukrainian government has reported at least 30 Russian cruise missile strikes, Simon Miles, a public policy professor and historian with expertise in U.S.-Soviet relations at Duke University in North Carolina, said Thursday.
Ukraine’s military has not been routed, as some expected, Miles said, but about 40 service members died in the first full day of hostilities.
Co-chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus released a statement Thursday morning, calling Russia’s military actions in Ukraine “a reprehensible violation of international law.”
“Together, the United States and our allies must unleash crippling sanctions against Russia, and swiftly bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities. The security and stability of Europe – and the preservation of global liberty – are all on the line,” wrote Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley.
The Biden administration committed to continued coordination with the other 29 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance.”
The White House said that if Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated within Ukraine, the sanctions would increase. That escalation happened Thursday.
Still, sanctions imposed so far may have been oversold, Bruce Jentleson, a public policy professor at Duke and senior State Department adviser during President Barack Obama’s administration, said.
“A lot of the discussion of sanctions has been, ‘Oh my goodness, look at all the tools we have,’” he said. “In the sense of sanctions being a major part of the deterrent, they didn’t work.”
Russia has built substantial currency reserves that will buy Putin “insulation” from sanctions. Even the much-publicized cancellation of the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany was relatively painless for Russia as it only affected the permitting of a non-operational line, Jentleson added.
Russia’s goals “appear pretty maximalist,” likely including overthrowing Ukraine’s government with a regime friendlier to Putin, but stopping short of invading other nations, Miles said.
However, Putin’s recent decision-making also doesn’t appear completely rational and his goals are difficult to interpret, Miles added. Read more