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A Fox News reporter badgered White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday regarding Russian sanctions regarding Ukraine, claiming that the Biden administration is “waiting for people to die” first.
Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich challenged Psaki on why President Joe Biden appears to be reluctant to impose sanctions on the Kremlin as Russian forces continue to surround Ukraine and move more military assets into regions on Ukraine’s border ahead of what many within the administration believe is an imminent attack.
“Heinrich asked why, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued posturing along Russia’s border with Ukraine and intelligence suggesting an imminent attack, the Biden Administration was still holding back on the threatened sanctions that were supposedly being used as a ‘deterrent,'” The Daily Wire reported.
“You guys have attributed this cyber attack to Russia and you’re warning that the prospect of war — or peace, rather, is pretty dim. So, at what point do you break away from the strategy, say it’s not working, and do something else, imposing these sanctions now?” Heinrich asked after noting that proposed sanctions did not apply to various avenues in order to minimize the collateral damage to other nations.
Psaki pushed back, however, and said the administration looks at the proposed sanctions as deterrents and added that the White House believes that the threat of sanctions gives leverage rather than actually imposing them.
“If you put all of the sanctions in place now, what is stopping them from invading?” Psaki asked.
“Are they working?” Heinrich asked in response.
“Well … I think that’s our assessment from the national security team and, you know, we will continue to implement that strategy,” Psaki replied.
Psaki: "If you put all of the sanctions in place now, what is stopping them from invading?"@JacquiHeinrich: "Are they working?"
Psaki: "Well…I think that's our assessment from the national security team and…we will continue to implement [our] strategy." pic.twitter.com/4GScs09rml
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 18, 2022
That didn’t satisfy Heinrich, however.
“You’re waiting for people to die before implementing them in that case,” Heinrich pressed once more.
“I think, Jacqui, that’s in no way a fair statement or accusation, I guess, if that’s what that is,” Psaki responded.
“What we have done, what the president has done is unite hundreds — countries around the world on a strong package that will be crippling to the Russian economy and we have done that in a way where we have stood up for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and stood with our NATO partners and allies,” she said.
“It has always been up to President Putin and Russia to determine which path they were going to take, that has not changed,” Psaki continued. “But that leadership on the world stage is what has led to a united front and united opposition to these actions.”
.@JacquiHeinrich: "You're waiting people to die before implementing [sanctions] in that case."
Psaki: "I think, Jacqui, that's in no way a fair statement or accusation, I guess, if that's what that is….What the President has done is unite countries…It's always up to…Putin" pic.twitter.com/eYSPXMKNTi
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 18, 2022
The press secretary also said that Putin had thus far failed to achieve one of his long-held objectives, the permanent division of NATO as well as undermining relations between alliance countries.
Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken got the same line of questioning from CNN’s Dana Bash and he gave nearly the same response that Psaki gave Heinrich.
“Ukrainian President Zelensky is calling for the U.S. and others, Europeans, to put sanctions in place now, to do it proactively, not reactively. He said, quote, ‘Today our partners are saying that war may start tomorrow if there was a powerful escalation on the Russian side and then there will be powerful sanctions applied.’ The question is why are you not introducing sanctions now rather than waiting until after the escalation. What’s your answer to that?” Bash asked.
“First of all, Dana, as I said, we are not waiting. We are doing a lot right now,” Blinken insisted, saying that the United States was “taking the lead” on coordinating what he said would be “massive consequences” that would be implemented if Russia were to make a move against Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.
“In Ukraine we’re providing — and last year alone provided more military assistance to Ukraine than any year in the past. We’ve been going against those inside Ukraine trying to destabilize the government. We’re taking concrete action,” Blinken added.
“But you’re not imposing the sanctions?” pressure Bash.
“When it comes to sanctions, the purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression. So if they’re triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect,” Blinken argued, noting that coordination between the U.S. and European countries was “designed to factor into President Putin’s calculus and deter and dissuade them from taking aggressive action even as we pursue diplomacy at the same time.”