Speaking from the White House on Thursday (February 24), US President Joe Biden condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and announced new sanctions against the Vladimir Putin-led country.
He added that he would be sending additional troops to help defend NATO’s Eastern European borders and that the economic penalties would squeeze Russian financial markets
See the president’s full address below:
Good afternoon. The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, without provocation, without justification, without necessity.
This is a pre-meditated attack. Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months, as we’ve been saying all along. He moved more than 175,000 troops and military equipment to positions along the Ukrainian border. He moved blood supplies into position and built up field hospitals, which tells you all you need to know about his intentions all along.
He rejected every good faith effort the United States and our allies and partners made to address our mutual security concerns through dialogue to avoid needless conflict and avert human suffering. For weeks, for weeks, we have been warning that this would happen. And now, it’s unfolding largely as we predicted.
In the past week, we’ve seen shelling increase in the Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The Russian government has perpetrated cyberattacks against Ukraine. We saw a staged political theatre in Moscow, outlandish and baseless claims that Ukraine was about to invade and launch a war against Russia, that Ukraine was prepared to use chemical weapons. Ukraine committed genocide.
Without any evidence, we saw flagrant violation of international law and attempting to unilaterally create two new so-called republics on sovereign Ukrainian territory. And at the very moment that the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty, to stave off invasion, Putin declared his war. Within moments, moments, missile strikes began to fall on historic cities across Ukraine. Then came the air raids, followed by tanks and troops rolling in.
We’ve been transparent with the world. We’ve shared declassified evidence about Russia’s plans and cyberattacks and false pretext so that there could be no confusion or cover-up about what Putin was doing. Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.
Today, I’m authorising additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia. This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time. We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximise the long-term impact on Russia and to minimise the impact on the United States and our allies.
I want to be clear. The United States is not doing this alone. For months, we’ve been building a coalition of partners representing well more than half the global economy. Twenty-seven members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and many others, to amplify the joint impact of our response.
I just spoke with the G7 leaders this morning, and we’re in full and total agreement. We will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen to be part of the global economy. We’ll limit their ability to do that.
We’re going to stunt the ability to finance and grow the Russian military. We’re going to impose major sanctions and we’re going to impair their ability to compete in a high-tech, 21st-century economy. We’ve already seen the impact of our actions on Russia’s currency and the ruble, which, early today, hit its weakest level ever, ever in history. The Russian stock market plunged today. The Russian government borrowing rates have spiked by over 15 per cent.
In today’s actions, we’ve now sanctioned Russian banks that together hold around $1 trillion in assets. We’ve cut off Russia’s largest bank, a bank that holds more than one-third of Russia’s banking assets by itself. Cut it off [from] the US financial system. And today, we’re also blocking four more major banks. That means every asset they have in America will be frozen. This includes VTB, the second-largest bank in Russia, which has $250 billion dollars in assets. As promised, we’re also adding the names to the list of Russian elites and their family members that we’re sanctioning as well.
As I said on Tuesday, these are people who personally gain from the Kremlin’s policies, and they should share in the pain. We will keep up this drumbeat of those designations against corrupt billionaires in the days ahead. On Tuesday, we stopped the Russian government from raising money from US or European investors. Now we’re going to apply the same restrictions to Russia’s largest state-owned enterprises, companies with assets that exceed $1.4 trillion.
Some of the most powerful impacts of our actions will come over time, as we squeeze Russians’ access to finances and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and degrade its industrial capacity for years to come.
Between our actions and those of our allies and partners, we estimate that we’ll cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports. And we’ll strike a blow to their ability to continue to modernise their military. It’ll degrade their aerospace industry, including their space program. It will hurt their ability to build ships, reducing their ability to compete economically, and it will be a major hit to Putin’s long-term strategic ambitions.
And we’re preparing to do more. In addition to the economic penalties we’re imposing, we’re also taking steps to defend our NATO allies, particularly in the East.
Tomorrow (Friday) NATO will convene a summit – we’ll be there – to bring together the leaders of allied nations and close partners to affirm our solidarity and to map out the next steps we will take to further strengthen all aspects of our NATO Alliance.
Although we provided over $650 million in defensive assistance to Ukraine, just this year, this last year, let me say it again. Our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine. Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the East. As I made crystal clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power. And the good news is, NATO is more united and more determined than ever. There is no doubt, no doubt that the United States and every NATO ally will meet our Article Five commitments, which says an attack on one is an attack on all.
Over the past few weeks, I ordered thousands of additional forces to Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO. On Tuesday, in response to Russia’s aggressive action, including his troop presence in Belarus and the Black Sea, I’ve authorised the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern flank allies: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
Our allies have also been stepping up, the other allies, the rest of NATO, adding their own forces and capabilities to ensure collective defence. And today, within hours of Russia unleashing its assault, NATO came together and authorised and activated an activation of response plans. This will enable NATO’s high readiness forces to deploy, and when and where they’re needed to protect our NATO allies on the eastern boundaries of Europe.
And now I’m authorising additional US force capabilities to deploy to Germany as part of NATO’s response, including some of the US-based forces that the Department of Defense placed on standby weeks ago. I’ve also spoken with Defense Secretary Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Milley about preparations for additional moves, should they become necessary to protect our NATO allies and support the greatest military alliance in the history of the world: NATO.
As we respond, my administration is using the tools, every tool at its disposal to protect American families and businesses from rising prices at the gas pump. You know, we’re taking active steps to bring down the cost, and American oil and gas companies should not – should not – exploit this moment to hike their prices to raise profits.
You know, in our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue. We are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption. We’ve been coordinating with major oil-producing and consuming countries toward our common interest to secure global energy supplies. We are actively working with countries around the world to elevate collective release from the strategic petroleum reserves of major energy-consuming countries. And the United States will release additional barrels of oil as conditions warrant.
I know this is hard and that Americans are already hurting. I will do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me. But this aggression cannot go unanswered. If it did, the consequences for America would be much worse.
America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom. This is who we are.
Let me also repeat the warning I made last week. If Russia pursues cyberattacks against our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond. For months, we’ve been working closely with the private sector to harden our cyber defences, sharpen our ability to respond to Russian cyberattacks as well. I spoke last night to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, and I assured him that the United States together with our allies and partners in Europe will support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country. We’ll provide humanitarian relief to ease their suffering.
In the early days of this conflict, Russia propaganda outlets will keep trying to hide the truth and claim success for its military operation against a made-up threat. But history has shown time and again how swift gains in territory eventually give way to grinding occupations, acts of mass civil disobedience and strategic dead ends.
The next few weeks and months will be hard on the people of Ukraine. Putin has unleashed a great pain on them. But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence. They’ve repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.
This is a dangerous moment for all of Europe, for freedom around the world. Putin has committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace. Now, the entire world sees clearly what Putin and his Kremlin allies are really all about.
This was never about genuine security concerns on their part. It was always about naked aggression, about Putin’s desire for Empire by any means necessary, by bullying Russia’s neighbours through coercion and corruption, by changing borders by force and ultimately by choosing a war without a cause. Putin’s actions betray a sinister vision for the future of our world, one where nations take what they want by force. But it is a vision that the United States and freedom-loving nations everywhere will oppose with every tool of our considerable power.
The United States and our allies and partners will emerge from this stronger, more united, more determined and more purposeful. Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will end up costing Russia dearly, economically and strategically. We will make sure of that.
Putin will be a pariah on the international stage. Any nation that countenances Russia’s naked aggression against Ukraine will be stained by association. When the history of this era is written, Putin’s choice to make a totally unjustifiable war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger. Liberty, democracy, human dignity.
These are the forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. They cannot be extinguished by tyrants like Putin and his armies. They cannot be erased from people’s hearts and hopes by any amount of violence and intimidation. They endure. In a contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake, freedom will prevail. God bless the people of a free and democratic Ukraine and may God protect our troops.