Mar 1, 2022 - World

Biden pledges to crater the Russian economy: Putin "has no idea what's coming"


Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Biden began his first State of the Union address with an homage to the "iron will of the Ukrainian people," and a pledge to choke off Russia's economy to ensure Vladimir Putin pays the ultimate price for his unprovoked aggression.

Why it matters: Russia's economy is in free fall. The ruble has lost 30% of its value and trading on the Russian stock market remains suspended, as Putin scrambles to implement capital controls in response to Western sanctions that have been far more swift, united and painful than many could have predicted.

Driving the news: In addition to the unprecedented banking sanctions and export controls that the Western allies have already rolled out, Biden announced two new steps during his address to tighten the screws on Putin:

  1. A ban on Russian flights entering American air space, following similar moves by the European Union, U.K. and Canada.
  2. A Justice Department task force that will work alongside the Europeans to crack down on the crimes of Russian oligarchs, seizing their yachts, luxury apartments, private jets and other "ill-begotten gains."

What they're saying: "Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated," Biden said, addressing a chamber filled with members donning Ukrainian colors.

  • "We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever," the president declared, rattling off the list of sanctions that the international community — including traditionally non-aligned countries like Switzerland — have imposed.
  • "Putin has unleashed violence and chaos. But while he may make gains on the battlefield — he will pay a continuing high price over the long run."

Biden at one point asked the audience to turn and give a standing ovation to Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, who was a guest of first lady Jill Biden.

  • "Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people," Biden said.
  • "He will never extinguish their love of freedom. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world."

Between the lines: As Americans continue to cope with inflation at home, Biden acknowledged that "a Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world."

  • He pledged to take "robust action" to target the pain of U.S. sanctions at the Russian economy, while using "every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers."
  • To that end, Biden announced that the U.S. and 30 other countries have agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves around the world to help alleviate surging energy prices.

The bottom line: "When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger," Biden predicted.

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