Updated Mar 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden defends timing on Russia sanctions

President Joe Biden addresses the 2022 House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference.

President Biden addresses the 2022 House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden has a message for members of Congress: the U.S. response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine will be in coordination with U.S. allies.

Why it matters: Biden used the first part of his appearance before House Democrats on the last day of their retreat in Philadelphia Friday to defend his decisions on Russia — and the timing and scope of his actions.

What he's saying: "Literally I spend hours and hours and hours and hours keeping our alliance together. You, NATO, our allies — including our Asian allies," Biden said.

  • The president acknowledged that Congress wanted to revoke Russia's most favored nation trade status earlier, but defended his decision to consult key allies before moving ahead with such a decision.
  • "But folks, I know I've occasionally frustrated, but more important than moving when we want to is making sure all of NATO is together," he added.
  • "They have different vulnerabilities than we do. Just like in the oil embargo. [...] Without Russian oil, they're going to find themselves choked off in ways that far exceeds anything we do. So it took a long time sitting with my counterparts."
  • "I said look, w'ere going to block oil, but I'm not going to ask you to do it [...] You do what you can, and we're going to help you get energy."

The big picture: Over the past three weeks, Congress has largely been a step ahead of the Biden administration in terms of calling for punitive actions against Russia.

The bottom line: "I want to be clear though, we're going to defend every inch of NATO territory," Biden said leaning into the podium. "But we will not fight a Third World War."

  • "The idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and planes and tanks and trains with American pilots and American crews — don't kid yourself, no matter what you all say — that's called World War III. Ok?"

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