As much of the world watched in alarm and sorrow on Thursday as Russian president Vladimir Putin mounted a full-scale invasion of Ukraine from land and sea, President Joe Biden addressed disquieted Americans wondering what was to come. “Putin committed an assault on the very principles that uphold global peace,” Biden said in a searing speech Thursday afternoon, following a virtual meeting with G7 leaders.
“This was never about genuine security concerns on their part. It was about naked aggression.”
During his White House address, Biden announced additional sanctions against Russia, which he said were designed to “maximize the long term impact on Russia and minimize the impact on the U.S. and its allies.” Such measures included sanctions against four more of Russia’s banks and oligarchs who “personally gain from the Kremlin’s policies.” He also said he would send additional troops to Europe: U.S. forces would not become “engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” he emphasized, but America and its allies would defend “every inch of NATO territory.”
Biden nonetheless reserved some harsher measures, including cutting off Russia from the SWIFT banking system. He also said that he had “no plans” to talk to Putin and that there had been a “complete rupture” in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia. “Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
Biden acknowledged that the impact of the sanctions would be felt on the U.S. and its allies: “I know this is hard, and Americans are already hurting,” he said, alluding to the pain at the gas pump already being felt in the U.S. due to inflation. But he urged “resolve” while the sanctions take effect, cautioning that Putin “has much larger ambitions than Ukraine.”
“He wants to, in fact, re-establish the former Soviet Union,” Biden said. “That’s what this is about.”
Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, announced in an overnight televised address, was followed by reports of blasts caused by shelling or missile strikes across the country, with at least 10 regions of Ukraine—including Kyiv, the capital—hit within an hour, per the New York Times. More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in fighting on Thursday morning and dozens were injured, Ukrainian officials said.
Putin’s actions on Thursday prompted U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to issue statements standing with Ukraine and pressing Biden to impose new crippling sanctions on Russia, NBC News reported. “The last few hours have laid bare for the world to witness the true evil that is Vladimir Putin,” the top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees said in a joint statement, while Senator Lindsey Graham called the invasion “a war crime.” Even Senator Ted Cruz, who just a few days ago blamed the Russia-Ukraine crisis on Biden’s “weakness,” struck a bipartisan note; Senator Josh Hawley fell somewhere in between. Other conservatives, however, continued to place blame on Biden, as Donald Trump did on Wednesday evening while praising Putin as “smart” for the second time this week.
International condemnation was also swift. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared on Thursday that “overwhelming” sanctions would be part of the U.K. response to Russia’s actions, which he called “a catastrophe for our continent.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Russia’s military aggression “a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe,” while Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, called Moscow’s attack “a turning point in the history of Europe and our country” and pledged to back sanctions against Russia. Russian-friendly world leaders, too, condemned the attack: