Biden defends timing on Russia sanctions
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.
- More frequently than not, President Biden ultimately followed through with executive action: revoking Russia's access to the SWIFT international banking system, banning imports of Russian oil, and on Friday, moving to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status with the U.S.
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?"