OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
President Joe Biden faced something he is not used to, and his reaction to it said a ton about who he is as a president.
The president faced an unusually tough White House Press Corps on Thursday and one question in particular, from CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, appeared to rankle him.
“You said in recent weeks that big nations cannot bluff when it comes to something like this,” she said.
“You recently said that personally sanctioning President Putin was on the table. Is That a step that you’re prepared to take and if not…” she said before the president interrupted her.
“It’s not a bluff, it’s on the table,” he said.
“Sanctioning President Putin?” she said.
“Yes,” the president said.
“Why not sanction him today sir,” she said as he stared blankly like a deer in the headlights.
“Why not sanction him today,” she said again as he pointed to another reporter and ignored her question.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins presses Biden on sanctioning Putin directly.
NBC's Peter Alexander grills him on not removing Russia from the international banking system: "What more are you waiting for?" pic.twitter.com/zjyV7Pkg5W
— Nicholas Fondacaro 🇺🇦 (@NickFondacaro) February 24, 2022
Prior to that, she held his feet to the fire on the threat of sanctions not working to stop Putin from invading Ukraine.
“If sanctions cannot stop President Putin, what penalty can?” she said.
“I didn’t say sanctions couldn’t stop him,” he said.
“You’ve been talking about the threat of these sanctions for several weeks now,” she said.
CNN's @KaitlanCollins: "If sanctions cannot stop President Putin, what penalty can?"
Biden: "I didn't say sanctions couldn’t stop him."
Collins: "You've been talking about the threat of these sanctions for several weeks now." pic.twitter.com/LeJFxYpXol
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 24, 2022
And the president faced other tough questions as reporters peppered him and he eventually left the briefing room.
“You detailed some severe and swift new sanctions today and said the impact it will have over time but, given the full scale invasion, given that you are not pursuing disconnecting Russia from what’s called SWIFT, the international banking system, or other sanctions at your disposal. Respectfully sir, what more are you waiting for?” NBC reporter Peter Alexander said.
“Specifically, the sanctions we imposed exceed SWIFT,” the president argued. “The sanctions we imposed exceed anything that has ever been done. The sanctions we 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.”
Imagine how the people being bombed in Ukraine felt when hearing that were are going to see “in another month or so” if the sanctions are working.
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” the president said during the speech, laying out sanctions that he believes will “impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time.”
The new sanctions include export blocks on technology, a centerpiece of Biden’s approach that he said would severely limit Russia’s ability to advance its military and aerospace sector.
He also applied sanctions on four Russian banks and “corrupt billionaires” and their families who are close to the Kremlin.
And he announced a new deployment of ground and air forces to NATO’s eastern flank, even as he reiterated US troops would not engage in direct conflict in Ukraine.
“Our forces are not and will not be engaged in the conflict,” the president said. “Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine but defend our NATO allies and reassure those allies in the east.”
The sanctions could have the effect of hitting the pockets of American citizens as well, with the possibility of rising gas prices. The president addressed those concerns, if not very convincingly.
“I know this is hard and that Americans are already hurting,” the president said. “I’ll do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump.”
He also referred to Putin several times as a “bully” as i