“America, NATO poised to defend every inch”: Joe Biden on Russia’s proclaimed annexations in Ukraine

The US and its allies are fighting back Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions On Friday, he imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 people and companies, including arms supply networks, as President Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin he “can’t get away with” seizing Ukrainian land.

The Russian annexation, while expected, escalated an already heated conflict fraught with potential nuclear ramifications.

Biden said his administration will support any Ukraine efforts recapture the annexed territories by force, setting the stage for further hostilities. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced his country’s “accelerated” bid to join the NATO military alliance, a plan unsupported by the US or other allies that could add fuel to the fire.

“America and its allies will not be intimidated by Putin and his reckless words and threats,” Biden told reporters. He added that Putin “can’t seize his neighbor’s territory and get away with it.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia would annex four Ukrainian cities and regions came as no surprise after this week’s referendums that the West had described as bogus. And the US and Western allies had anticipated what their response would be.

But developments have dramatically increased tensions to a point not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago during the Cold War.

Biden spoke out against the annexation plans at the UN General Assembly last week, where a large majority of other members also spoke out in favor of respecting the territorial integrity of all nations.

On Friday, he seized the moment to reiterate that US-NATO allies would not allow Russia to attack any of the nearby NATO members without facing a strong military response.

“America is fully prepared, ready to join our NATO allies in defending every inch of NATO territory. Every inch,” Biden said. “So Mr. Putin, don’t get me wrong. Every inch.”

While the Biden administration has identified suppliers of Russia’s weapons and battlefield high-tech as a priority, many of Friday’s other sanctions were consistent with penalties already imposed on thousands of Russian individuals and companies and may have comparatively little impact on the population war effort. The government hopes they will serve to further erode support for Putin’s invasion among the Russian elite.

Meanwhile, the US and its European allies are rushing to finalize an agreement on a measure they hope will do more damage to the Russian economy: a cap on Russia’s maritime oil exports that would erode prices Putin is charging around the world for the oil oil of his country can demand.

For now, Biden said the new U.S. fiscal sanctions, similar to those of like-minded countries, will incur heavy costs for people and businesses “politically or economically supporting illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.” The sanctions apply to countries, individuals or companies that assist or do business with Russian-backed authorities in the newly annexed territories.

Echoing Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US “unequivocally rejects Russia’s fraudulent attempt to change Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. … This is a clear violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.”

“No one is fooled by what Moscow has done,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference with Canada’s visiting foreign minister. “The whole process surrounding these sham referendums was a complete farce. That territory is and will remain Ukraine, and Ukraine has every right to defend its country, to defend its people and to take back the territory that Russia took from it.”

This indicates that the US will support the Ukrainians with arms and ammunition to help them in military actions to retake the annexed territories. The US has in the past warned Ukraine against using American weapons against Russian territory.

About nuclear threats

Blinken also spoke out against Putin’s nuclear threats.

“This kind of talk about nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility and we take it very seriously,” he said. “To date,” he said, the US has not seen that “Russia is actually doing anything that suggests they are considering using nuclear weapons.”

“All I can tell you is that we plan against every possible scenario, including this one.”

Biden also lashed out at Putin’s comments on Friday accusing the West of sabotaging Russian-built natural gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea to Germany. The Nordic nations said the underwater explosions that damaged pipelines this week and have led to huge methane leaks included hundreds of pounds of explosives.

The president said the US and its allies were still working to determine who was responsible for the blasts, but angered Putin over his allegation.

“Let me say this, it was a deliberate act of sabotage,” Biden said. “And now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies.”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that “not many” countries were capable of carrying out such an attack on the pipelines. He stopped blaming Russia, but made it clear that the US is suspicious that it may be complicit.

A major sea disturbance is seen off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm on September 27, 2022, after a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany sparked concerns about possible sabotage. (Danish Defense Command via AP)

“Russia did what it often does when it’s responsible for something, which is to make allegations that it was really someone else who did it,” Sullivan said. “We’ve seen that over and over again over the years.”

As for a broader guarantee of protection, Ukraine has sought NATO membership for years, but has not yet been admitted due to concerns about its national governance. As a result of the Russian invasion, Finland and Sweden have applied for accelerated accession to the alliance.

The White House said Sullivan spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to underscore the “firm U.S. and NATO commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

About Zelenskyy’s push to join NATO

But the Biden administration does not welcome Zelenskyy’s push for an accelerated path to NATO membership. Sullivan said the US is focused on helping Ukraine through “hands-on assistance on the ground.” He added that “the process in Brussels should start at a different time”.

Earlier, following Putin’s announcement, the White House, along with the State Department, Treasury Department and Commerce Department, announced the new sanctions in a series of coordinated statements. The sanctions add to escalating punishments against Russia and its proxies since the invasion began on February 24.

The Treasury Department designated hundreds of members of Russia’s parliament, leaders of the country’s financial and military infrastructure, and suppliers to sanctions provisions that include asset freezes and bans on Americans from doing business with them. The Commerce Department has placed 57 companies on its export control violators list, and the State Department has placed more than 900 people on its visa ban list, making them ineligible to travel to the United States.

Since the invasion began, the US and European nations have imposed significant fines on Russia, its leadership and wealthy oligarchs linked to Putin. The allies have targeted the central bank reserves that support Russia’s economy and have disconnected many Russian banks from a vital global financial network called SWIFT.

The war has devastated the global economy and has contributed to massive disruptions in energy and food supplies around the world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said this week the global economy is expected to lose $2.8 trillion in output in 2023 because of the conflict.

Putin is undeterred. He warned that Russia will never give up the absorbed territories – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts – and will protect them as part of its sovereign territory.

Both chambers of the Russian parliament will meet next week to approve the treaties for the regions’ accession to Russia.

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