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14 Feb, 2022 21:28

US issues sanctions warning

Right now, the threat of sanctions has a “deterrent effect,” Washington says
US issues sanctions warning

The US has announced that it will not hit Russia with new sanctions unless Moscow initiates an invasion of Ukraine, with a top official stating that the possibility of economic punishment is a more effective deterrent from aggression than “preemptive” measures.

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that Washington believes there is a high likelihood of a Russian attack on Ukraine in the near future, but that imposing sanctions now would only lower the stakes for Moscow.

“If it's a deterrent and you use it before the aggression is made or the transgression is made, then you lose your deterrent effect,” Kirby explained. “If you punish somebody for something that they haven't done yet, then they might as well just go ahead and do it. So we believe there's a deterrent effect by keeping them in reserve and we have been very clear with the international community and with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin about the severity of the economic consequences that he could face.”

However, Kirby acknowledged that even the current threat of sanctions did not seem very effective, and warned Americans in Ukraine that they should leave the country due to the possibility of war. “We believe that a major military action could be only days away – could happen any day now, quite frankly,” he cautioned. “So now's not the time to be in Ukraine, you should make plans to leave immediately."

Western leaders have been sounding the alarm for months that Russia could be planning an attack on its neighbor, an accusation that Moscow has repeatedly denied. The US and EU have said they could impose massive economic sanctions on Russia if it does invade, and were reportedly considering cutting off the Russian banking system from the SWIFT international payment mechanism.

This weekend, however, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba told journalists that this was no longer on the table because “some countries, let’s say, were not ready to give up their own interests in connection with the potential delisting from SWIFT.”

Last week, US Senator Chris Murphy said that “pre-invasion sanctions” were being considered in Washington as a response to alleged Russian cyberattacks on Ukraine. This weekend, Viktor Tatarintsev, Moscow’s ambassador to Sweden, told Stockholm daily Aftonbladet, “excuse my language, but we don’t give a s**t about sanctions.”