State Department defends sanction strategy as Russia ignores economic threat and invades Ukraine

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The State Department on Wednesday defended its strategy of punishing Russia with reactive sanctions despite its inability to deter Moscow from invading Ukraine this week.

“The fact is that had we sanctioned Nord Stream 2 … it is far from clear that that would have kept the pipeline from going into operation,” State Department press secretary Ned Price said. 

Pipes for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline are stored on the port of Mukran near Sassnitz, Germany, Dec. 4, 2020. 
(Stefan Sauer/dpa via AP, File)

Price told reporters the pipeline was already 90% complete when the Biden administration entered the White House, despite U.S. sanctions on the pipeline issued under the Trump administration.

“What the Germans did yesterday was to ensure that the pipeline is no longer a part of the equation,” Price said during tough questioning about the White House’s strategy of deterrence. “One of the most important tools we have in our arsenal is transatlantic unity.”

On Tuesday, Germany blocked the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have funneled natural gas from Russia into Europe through Germany, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered “peacekeeping” troops to enter Eastern Ukraine. 

In response, Washington slapped the pipeline with its own sanctions Wednesday in addition to freezing $80 billion in Kremlin assets.

Russian elites and their families have also been targeted by the sanctions. 

A tank travels along a street after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine following the recognition of their independence in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 22, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

NATO allies, the European Union, Australia and Japan hit Russia with their own economic penalties.

“By acting together with the Germans how we did, when we did and the way in which we did we have ensured that this is an $11 billion prize investment that is now a hunk of steel sitting at the bottom of the sea,” Price said. 

Republicans on the Hill remain frustrated by the decision not to punish Russia preemptively with sanctions, and reporters have questioned the administration on whether it underestimated Putin’s desire to invade Ukraine.

“Oh, I think to the contrary, we’ve not underestimated him,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Tuesday.  “We’ve actually laid out for the world his entire playbook – a playbook that he is now following.  

“We’ve had a very clear-eyed view of President Putin all along.”

Price acknowledged reports that have suggested Russia could further attack within 24 hours and said the reports are “entirely consistent” with what the administration has been warning against.

Illia Rykov
(Fox News)

“This is a war that would be brutal, it would be costly, it would be in many ways devastating for the Russian Federation, for the Ukrainian people,” the press secretary continued. “The way in which the Russian Federation would wage this war … would not be a type of conflict that you might imagine over territory.

“This would be a war waged against Ukrainian people to subjugate them, crush them, to exact in many ways revenge,” he added, noting the U.S. and NATO are still seeking diplomatic avenues to prevent further Russian aggression.

The White House has promised to punish Russia with more sanctions if it continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty. 

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