CNN analyst unravels Biden’s Ukraine moves, ends up questioning ‘what impact if any’ sanctions will have

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President Joe Biden announced a second “major tranche” of sanctions against Russia on Thursday, looking to further isolate Vladimir Putin in response to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Predictably, CNN did its part to sell these measures as “tough” action, with host Don Lemon carrying the administration’s water on his program Thursday evening.

“An angry President Biden condemning Russia’s assault on Ukraine calling it unprovoked and unjustified, and imposing a round of sanctions saying Putin chose to launch this war,” Lemon said. “Now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

In saying Biden “slapped additional sanctions on Russia today,” Lemon brought on CNN Global Affairs analyst and The New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser to essentially prop up that assertion, asking his quest to explain the sanctions more.

“Why are they a big deal, and do you think they need to be even tougher to get Putin’s attention?” the CNN host asked.

But it appears Glasser missed her cue.

“I think the concern here is what is the goal of this policy?” she replied. “At this point obviously, they’re not a deterrent in the sense that the invasion has already happened. There was a debate beforehand, before the invasion, which Washington warned about, but at the same time, President Biden was reluctant to actually impose the sanctions.”

“There were some Republicans on Capitol Hill, President Zelinskyy of Ukraine urged the United States to put the sanctions on first. That didn’t happen,” Glasser added.

The New York Times described the new steps as “tough new sanctions… aimed at cutting off Russia’s largest banks and some oligarchs from much of the global financial system and preventing the country from importing American technology critical to its defense, aerospace and maritime industries, adding that the sanctions “include harsh penalties against the two largest Russian financial institutions, which together account for more than half of the country’s banking assets.”

“President Biden says there may be additional measures as well,” Glasser said. “There are still other things the United States and Europe could do, for example, like cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international banking system, but not everyone in Europe is on board with that, and so there’s a question about whether it’s been maximal, and then there’s the question of what’s the goal?”

“Is it to deter Putin from going after other countries aside from Ukraine? Is it to get him to stop the war?” she asked. “By all accounts, it probably will take quite some time for the full effect of these sanctions to be felt. So it’s not clear what impact if any, it will have on the fate of Ukraine itself right now.”

But then, Biden seemed to understand that, based on his remarks Thursday from the White House.

“The sanctions we’ve imposed exceed SWIFT. The sanctions we’ve imposed exceed anything that’s ever been done,” he claimed. “The sanctions we’ve imposed have generated two-thirds of the world joining us. They are profound sanctions.”

“Let’s have a conversation in another month or so to see if they’re working,” the president added.

SWIFT stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a cooperative overseen by the National Bank of Belgium that facilitates financial transactions and money transfers between more than 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries around the world, according to the New York Post.

Lemon tried to sell it as a battle of wills, a question of who can last the longest — certainly not the Ukrainian people.

“It doesn’t really help Ukraine even by President Biden’s formulation there,” Glasser said. “What’s really painful as we watch this situation unfold is that President Putin unfortunately very likely factored the cost of these sanctions and the other actions that the U.S. and the allies are taking into his decision to go into Ukraine and decided to go for it anyway.”

“One thing I’ve observed in 20 years of watching President Putin is that he’s not looking for off-ramps that the U.S. is giving him,” she noted. “He’s not seeing behavior modified by round after round after round of sanctions. He’s just not motivated by that. He’s talking about an almost existential war that he’s launched here to regain the Russian empire, and it’s very hard to negotiate with that, and it’s very hard to change behavior based on things like sanctions with that.”


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