Biden prepares sanctions against Putin’s inner circle ahead of this week’s key call


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They include further actions against members of Putin’s inner circle and against Russian energy producers, and a potential “nuclear option” – to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT international payments system used by banks around the world.

Officials said final decisions had not been made on whether and when to apply the new sanctions, and said the Biden administration was currently in talks with European partners – many of whom have connections. closer economic ties with Russia – in the hope of coordinating action.

A senior administration official said on Monday that the United States is ready to take “substantial economic countermeasures” aimed at inflicting “significant and serious economic damage to the Russian economy” if Putin goes ahead with military escalation in Ukraine.

“We believe there is a way forward here that will allow us to send a clear message to Russia that there will be real, significant and lasting costs in choosing to move forward – if they choose to move forward – with military escalation, ”the official said, briefing reporters ahead of Biden’s planning video call with Putin on Tuesday.

The official declined to say what economic sanctions were being considered, but said the United States had engaged in “intensive discussions with our European partners on what we would do collectively in the event of a major Russian military escalation.”

People familiar with the talks said new economic sanctions could target various sectors, including Russian energy producers and banks. The new sanctions could also attack Russia’s sovereign debt.

They are also likely to prey on the main Russian oligarchs, limiting their ability to travel and potentially cutting off access to U.S. banking and credit card systems.

Officials also considered disconnecting Russia from the international payments system SWIFT, on which Russia remains heavily dependent, according to two sources familiar with the talks. This is considered a “nuclear” option. The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in the spring calling for such a step if Russia invaded Ukraine, and the US has discussed it with its EU counterparts.

A serious discussion is also underway over the refusal of Russian energy producers from debt markets in the event of an invasion, according to a senior administration official.

“We have put in place a pretty aggressive package,” the official said, and warned Russia that if it invaded Ukraine, the United States and Europe would together impose the worst economic sanctions ever imposed on a country, outside Iran and the North. Korea.

But some fear that Russia will face retaliation against any initiative by the United States or its allies, including arming its energy production.

“The fear is that Russia will then try to retaliate by slowing down production,” a senior US official told CNN.

President Joe Biden spoke of possible actions on Friday, telling reporters he was “putting in place what I think is the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what the people are. worried he might do so. “And Secretary of State Antony Blinken referred to” high impact economic measures “being considered to punish Russia. Biden and Putin are expected to hold a video call Tuesday.

The Kremlin on Monday called reports of potential sanctions a “news hysteria,” Russian state news agency Tass reported.

“This is not news, but rather an ongoing hysteria of information that we are seeing in the media these days,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Tass.

New US intelligence findings believe Russia could launch a military offensive in Ukraine in months as it builds up to 175,000 troops along the border, a startling escalation that Biden says could have serious consequences .

Speaking last week, Putin said he would call for specific agreements that would exclude any further NATO expansion to the east and the deployment of its weapons near Russia’s borders. If Putin tells Biden on Tuesday that NATO should not admit Ukraine as a member – as it should during the two men’s secure videoconference – Biden is unlikely to accede to the request.

“We don’t think talking about red lines is helpful, and as the president said, we are not going to operate by that logic of accepting red lines from anyone,” a senior official said. administration one day before the call.

The latest developments come after months of steady increases along the Russian-Ukrainian border that have alarmed US and Western officials and led to tense conversations between US diplomats and their counterparts.

CNN reported on Friday that Russian forces have capabilities along the Ukrainian border to conduct a swift and immediate invasion, including erecting supply lines such as medical units and fuel that could fuel a protracted conflict if Moscow decides. to invade.

Officials said current levels of equipment stationed in the area could provide frontline forces for seven to 10 days and other support units for a month.

This story has been updated with additional reports.

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