Biden slams Russia, imposes sanctions
President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Feb. 18, 2022, in Washington. El presidente Joe Biden habla sobre Ucrania en la Sala Roosevelt de la Casa Blanca, el 18 de febrero de 2022, en Washington. | Alex Brandon / AP

The United States and major European countries have announced economic sanctions on Russia for what President Joe Biden is describing now as “the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine.”

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?” Biden asked.

Biden was referring to Russia’s recognition of the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. That recognition itself is considered by the U.S. to be an “invasion,” even without confirmation yet that actual Russian troops and tanks have rolled into the area. Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has announced the authorization of Russian troops to do so.

The breakaway republics are inhabited by Russian-speaking people who declared their independence from Ukraine eight years ago because of the severe anti-Russian discriminatory practices of the Ukrainian government, including the banning of the use of the Russian language in any official capacity in the country.

In warfare that has been ongoing in the region since then, some 15,000 Russian-speaking civilians are estimated to have been killed. In the last few days, more than 60,000 civilians living in the republics have fled across the border into Russia to escape heavy shelling by the Ukrainian Army, which has some 100,000 troops dug in along the borders between areas controlled by the separatists and sections of the Donbass controlled by Ukraine.

The sanctions announced so far are against two major Russian banks with international dealings. The German government also announced it was “suspending” the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is intended to deliver natural gas from Russia to Europe and bypass Ukraine.

Russian tanks roll on the field during military drills in Leningrad region, Russia, on Feb. 14, 2022. While the U.S. warns that Russia could invade Ukraine any day, the drumbeat of war is all but unheard in Moscow, where political experts and ordinary people alike still don’t expect President Vladimir Putin to launch a direct attack on Ukraine. | Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

That latter step does not have a severe immediate impact because activation of the pipeline has been suspended for months because of pressure on Germany from the U.S. government acting on behalf of fossil fuel monopolies in the U.S. that want to sell Europe their fracked gas. The Nord Stream 1 pipeline between Russia and Germany continues to operate and supply Europe with 30% of its natural gas.

Biden warned Russia that more sanctions will follow if he advances further into Ukraine. Right-wing lawmakers in the U.S. are pushing, as is the Ukrainian government, for stiffer sanctions immediately. The Biden administration appears to be resisting those calls so far, however, because as of now there are none of the mass casualties one would expect if a full-scale invasion were underway. Intelligence agencies have been predicting such an invasion, including an attack on Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, involving massive shelling, missile attacks, and bombing by Russian planes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont, has warned that we could be facing “the worst European war in over 75 years,” and has called on the U.S. to “do everything possible to try and find a diplomatic solution to what could be an enormously destructive” conflict.

He blamed Putin for the crisis, but also said Moscow had “legitimate concerns” about NATO’s eastward expansion towards Russia and that the U.S.’ dismissal of Russia’s concerns was “hypocritical.”

Sanders expressed concern about “the familiar drumbeats in Washington” and warned against the “bellicose rhetoric that gets amplified before every war.”

The Vermont senator, a leading progressive figure, said that recognizing the “complex roots of the tensions” in the region was key to fostering a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“It is good to know some history… Invasion by Russia is not an answer; neither is intransigence by NATO,” Sanders said. “It is also important to recognize that Finland, one of the most developed and democratic countries in the world, borders Russia and has chosen not to be a member of NATO.

“Putin may be a liar and a demagogue, but it is hypocritical for the United States to insist that we do not accept the principle of ‘spheres of influence,'” Sanders said.

He pointed the long tradition of U.S. foreign policy being based on the Monroe Doctrine, which says the U.S. can essentially do whatever it wants in this hemisphere. Sanders noted it has been used to overthrow “at least a dozen governments.”

He said that even if Russia wasn’t ruled by “a corrupt authoritarian leader” like Putin, the Russian government “would still have an interest in the security policies of its neighbors.”

“Does anyone really believe that the United States would not have something to say if, for example, Mexico was to form a military alliance with a U.S. adversary?” Sanders asked.

“Countries should be free to make their own foreign policy choices, but making those choices wisely requires a serious consideration of the costs and benefits,” Sanders added. “The fact is that the U.S. and Ukraine entering into a deeper security relationship is likely to have some very serious costs—for both countries.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the New York Times ran a long rambling story tracing the allegedly good work of the Biden administration in the crisis and how it was on top of the situation for many months now. The article gives a blow-by-blow description of the “good work” of U.S. intelligence agencies discovering from early on Russia’s plans to “invade.”

Biden held secret meetings already in October, according to the Times, to discuss the “grim” intelligence reports about Russia’s plans. These were discussed “every morning in the situation room.”

CIA Director William Burns allegedly warned Putin directly that the U.S. knew his plans. Biden then laid out plans about how to convince skeptical European allies to get on board with plans to “stop” Russia. Then he spent weeks scheming about how to get Republicans on board.

A Russian worker at the construction site of the Nord Stream pipeline in Portovaya Bay 106 miles northwest from St. Petersburg, Russia. Germany has ‘suspended’ the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. | Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

Biden developed two “key approaches” about how to “handle” Russia including a decision to share intelligence with allies and then a decision to broadcast findings to the world, including the “findings about false flag operations and staged television shows about phony provocations by the Russians.” Then they “brilliantly” called in banks and corporations to get them on board to hammer out potential sanctions. Then they laid out all the plans of when and how to send more and more weapons and troops into Europe to bolster “preparations.”

Those “proofs” of how meticulous the administration has been included how Secretary of State Antony Blinken was sent all around the world to talk to leaders and develop “joint plans.” It described meetings Biden had with Putin in which Biden directly warned the Russian leader.

Nowhere in the lengthy defense of the administration’s approach to the crisis was there any mention of attempts by the U.S. to seriously address even one of Russia’s legitimate security concerns, including a halt to NATO expansion eastward and removal of offensive weapons by the West from places bordering on Russia.

The U.N. has condemned Russia’s recognition of the independence of the two republics as a violation of international law, but it has also demanded that both sides reopen diplomatic channels to solve the issues through talks, not war.

The Russian government said it is willing to continue talking, but the U.S. says there is no point in talking, at least right now, since Russia has begun its long-predicted “invasion.”

Meanwhile, the cable networks today have already begun scare stories aimed at the American people who are warned to expect not just skyrocketing prices at the gas pump and in home heating fuel but all kinds of cyber attacks on everything, including their bank accounts. All of this, of course, is the fault of the Russians.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.