President Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin both appeared to escalate the standoff between Russia and the West this week, with Putin suspending a nuclear arms treaty and Biden pledging further sanctions for Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine.
Both leaders gave major speeches on the war Tuesday, as Biden visited Poland to rally support for Ukraine a year after Russia’s invasion.
Biden’s new sanctions
In chest-thumping remarks in Warsaw, Biden pledged to punish Russia for its invasion by redoubling sanctions.
“We are going to announce more sanctions this week together with our partners,” he said. “We will hold those accountable for those responsible for this war, and will seek justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity continuing to be committed by the Russians.”
Biden’s pledge comes after nearly a year of unprecedented sanctions that have largely failed to achieve what Biden set out to do: cripple Russia’s economy.
Biden once bragged that the ruble had been turned to “rubble,” but Russia’s economy has proven resilient, shrinking by just 2 percent, much lower than the 15 percent Biden predicted.
Upping the ante
Biden’s trip to Poland came after an unannounced visit to Ukraine Monday, where he met with President Zelensky and promised unwavering support for “as long as it takes.”
Biden’s rejection of diplomacy in favor of continuous escalation has led to fears that he is drawing the U.S. into a potential world war. The 80-year-old president’s provocative rhetoric has done little to ease concerns.
While visiting Poland last year, Biden rattled nerves when he declared that Putin “cannot remain in power,” forcing a retraction from the White House. Biden would go on to describe Putin as a fugitive “war criminal.”
In his latest remarks, Biden denied “plotting” to destroy Russia and placed the blame squarely on Putin for the continuation of the war.
“The West is not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today,” Biden said. “This war was never a necessity — it is a tragedy.”
Biden did not appear to entertain any off-ramps in his speech, promising NATO’s indefinite support for Ukraine.
“NATO will not be divided and we will not tire,” Biden said.
Putin, in his own remarks, blamed the war on NATO’s eastward expansion and alleged that the West was using Ukraine as a tool to destroy Russia.
“Western elites aren’t trying to conceal their goals, to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ to Russia,” Putin said. “They intend to transform the local conflict into a global confrontation.”
At the same time, Putin announced Russia’s withdrawal from the New START treaty and dismissed Western sanctions that he said had not “achieved anything and will not achieve anything.”