WASHINGTON – With the war in Ukraine entering its third month, President Biden announced new sanctions on Russian oligarchs, as well as a new military aid package to Ukraine, measures intended to convince the Kremlin that it has little to gain from continuing the occupation of its sovereign neighbor.
“Aggression will not win. Threats will not win,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has stepped up its rhetoric against Ukraine’s allies in the West. Earlier this week, Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, described the threat of nuclear war as “serious.”
The new, $33 billion aid package includes “ammunition, armored vehicles, small arms, de-mining assistance, and unmanned aircraft systems,” as well as humanitarian aid, according to a White House letter sent to Congress. The Biden administration hopes to bolster Ukrainian forces as they face the Russian offense in the Donbas region.
So far, the offensive has not amounted to the shattering blow the Kremlin hoped to land, but a protracted conflict is likely to present its own challenges, not only on the battlefields of Ukraine but in Washington, where Biden has had to justify the military expenditures as a necessary bulwark against authoritarianism.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” the president acknowledged, “but caving to aggression is going to be more costly, if we allow it to happen.”
The Biden administration also unveiled new sanctions Thursday against the billionaires whose fortunes are closely tied to Putin's. A White House brief on the new measures said the administration would make it “unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally possess proceeds directly obtained from corrupt dealings with the Russian government,” while also making the process of seizing the oligarchs’ assets easier.
“We are going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes,” Biden said. “These are bad guys.”
The Department of Justice will also update the definition of “racketeering” to stymie the oligarchs' attempts to evade the sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. and Western allies.
Any assets seized, according to the White House fact sheet, will be used to “remediate harms of Russian aggression toward Ukraine,” which has included the killing of civilians, the devastation of cities and the destruction of infrastructure.
Biden had a blunt message for Putin. “You will never succeed in dominating Ukraine,” he said.