Russia mocks Biden’s comments about sanctioning Putin if Russia launches an invasion while the US throws guns at Ukraine
Russia on Wednesday dismissed a recent warning from President Joe Biden, who said the day before that the US could seek to personally sanction President Vladimir Putin if he sends forces across the border. Putin’s spokesman said such sanctions are “destructive” but not “painful” because, according to the Kremlin’s press secretary, Russia’s top leaders have no bank accounts or assets abroad.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, President Biden said if Putin sent the roughly 100,000 troops, he would go along with itto the US-allied country “this would be the largest invasion since World War II. She would change the world.”
When asked if his administration would personally sanction Putin, Mr. Biden replied, “Yes…I would see that.”
The president’s comment was the latest heightening of tensions between the US and Russia over what the White House and his NATO allies believe are Putin’s possible plans to invade Ukraine, as his forces did in 2014 when they annexed Crimea .
CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams, reporting from Kyiv on Wednesday, has said so far Putin has been unfazed by warnings from Mr Biden and other NATO leaders. Even as the US supplies weapons to better arm Ukraine’s forces and NATO sends warships and troops to the region, there is no indication that Russia is backing down.
Russia has continued to conduct military exercises on Ukraine’s land borders and with its naval forces at sea.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted the latest warning from Washington on Wednesday. He was quoted by Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti as attributing the idea of sanctions against Putin or other Russian leaders “to US congressmen and senators who are not entirely familiar with the subject” and who would have been wise to first “attribute those consult those who work professionally in Russia.”
He said that “top management and officials have long been forbidden” from holding foreign assets. “That’s why such a question is of course not absolutely painful for any of the representatives of top management.”
It is widely believed that Putin has significant financial assets, but his personal wealth remains a mystery. Whatever fortune he has is well hidden, and it’s unclear how much impact new American sanctions could really have on the man who has led Russia for more than two decades.
While the White House has repeatedly warned for weeks that Russia would face “heavy” and “unprecedented” sanctions if it invades Ukraine, it has not given details on further action it is considering with allies or unilaterally.
Putin’s intransigence in the face of Western warnings has prompted questions about whether conflict is inevitable and what his motivation for a hypothetical attack on Ukraine might be.
As Williams reports, Ukraine’s leaders took to the airwaves this week urging their nation to remain calm.
“Don’t worry, sleep well,” the defense secretary said on Tuesday. But the 79-ton planeload of American military equipment that landed in Kiev — nearly 300 Javelin anti-tank missiles and other ammunition — tells a slightly different story. It was just the last shipment of about $200 million worth of emergency military aid from the United States
Even with American help, Ukraine is vastly outgunned and outnumbered by its huge neighbor to the east, and with Russian troops just behind its borders, the fate of Ukrainians could lie in the hands of only one man: Putin.
Russia’s soft-spoken strong leader grew up in the USSR and served the Soviet Union as a KGB agent.
According to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian businessman and very public critic of Putin, the president “wants Russia to become like the Soviet Union again.”
“The most important thing for him is to control the situation,” Khodorkovsky told CBS News. The businessman has been convicted in Russia on corruption charges that many believe were politically motivated. After a decade in prison, he now lives in exile.
He said that in order to understand the Russian leader, the US must stop considering him as president.
“You have to talk to him like me [a] criminal boss,” Khodorkovsky told Williams. He claims that Putin is trying to rebuild the Russian empire to distract ordinary Russians from their economic hardship, and he says Putin’s main goals are simple: stay in power and himself and his friends enrich.
Williams told the Russian dissident it sounds like he’s calling Putin the Tony Soprano of world politics.
“Exactly,” he replied. “I’ve said this to Western politicians time and time again… You’re dealing with a mafia boss.
The current standoff on Ukraine’s border began, Williams noted, because Russia was moving tens of thousands of its troops to that border. But Putin’s government insists that Russia is the victim – threatened by alleged US and NATO aggression.
Some analysts believe that Putin does not want more democracy on Russia’s western flank with close ties to the US and NATO and is trying to bring Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence and force the US and its allies to give him what he wants .