Washington: In response to Russia declaring the two rebel regions of Ukraine as independent states, US President Joe Biden has announced what he called the "first tranche" of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing.
Addressing reporters in the White House on Tuesday, Biden said the first tranche of sanctions have been closely coordinated with their allies and partners, and it will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates.
In its bid to cut off Russia's government from Western financing, the sanctions have been imposed on two large Russian financial institutions: V.E.B. and their military bank, as well as on Russian sovereign debt.
Russia "can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either", the President said.
Biden said that his administration "will also impose sanctions on Russia's elites and their family members.
"And because of Russia's actions, we've worked with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 will not - as I promised - will not move forward," he noted.
The President called his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin's declaration a "flagrant violation of international law", which "demands a firm response from the international community" and warned that Moscow "will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions".
In response to Russia's stance on not withdrawing its forces from Belarus, Biden also authorised additional movements of American forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to "strengthen our Baltic Allies — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania".
"Russia has moved supplies of blood and medical equipment into position on their border. You don't need blood unless you plan on starting a war," he further said.
Biden however, reiterated that the sanctions were "totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia".
"We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the US, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.
As per the Reuters report, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed off the threat of sanctions and said, "We're used to it. We know that sanctions will be imposed anyway, in any case. With or without reason."
Maria Shagina, an international sanctions expert based in Helsinki, quoted in the Washington Post stated that Vladimir Putin does not seem threatened by Biden's strategy of a slow escalation of sanctions.