Former President Donald Trump called the sanctions against Russia announced by Joe Biden on Tuesday, Feb. 22, “weak and insignificant” and claimed that the whole conflict benefits the Russian government.
On Monday, Feb. 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing the “independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” located in Donbas province, Ukraine. He argued that it was the only way to end the armed conflict between those who consider themselves independent from Ukraine and Ukrainians, which began in 2014 when they overthrew the Ukrainian president.
Donetsk and Luhansk’s declaration of independence gave Putin room to ask parliament for authorization to use force outside Russian territory. However, it is unclear what legal weight a Russian law has over a region currently considered Ukraine’s rather than an argument for deploying the army.
Putin sent troops and battle tanks to the area as “peacekeeping forces” to ensure he protected what he considered an independent territory from the Kyiv government.
Although Ukraine is not a NATO member, Putin’s advance triggered a series of economic sanctions from European Union countries and the United States that vowed to defend its sovereignty. Financial punishment is the “peacetime” method of choice to discourage armed conflict.
Joe Biden said that Russia could not seek financing from any financial entity or bank in Europe or the United States to pay its sovereign debt. The entities most affected by the sanctions are the VEB, Russia’s state development bank, and the Russian “Military Bank.”
In addition, he assured that the Russian “elites”—referring to the parliamentarians who voted for the “independence” of the conflict zone—will also feel the “pain” of the sanctions, they will be banned from traveling, and their assets will be frozen.
However, for former President Trump, the sanctions are not significant enough in the context of the conflict and appear to be serving Russia’s interests.
“Russia has become very very rich during the Biden Administration, with oil prices doubling and soon to be tripling and quadrupling,” Trump wrote. “The weak sanctions are insignificant relative to taking over a country and a massive piece of strategically located land.”
He added: “Now it has begun, oil prices are going higher and higher, and Putin is not only getting what he always wanted, but getting, because of the oil and gas surge, richer and richer.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton made a similar observation on Twitter.
“President Biden’s timid sanctions tonight are wholly unequal to this moment. Russia is invading Ukraine now. The time has come for the “swift and severe” sanctions that Joe Biden has long threatened but refused to impose. There is not a minute to lose.”
According to expert analysis, the sanctions cover few financial institutions and did not cut off Russia’s access to the SWIFT system (global payment system) used to move money around the world, so the Russian government, through its companies, could continue to operate internationally.
Biden also failed to impose sanctions or embargoes on Russian exports, which would have prevented Russian companies from accessing high-tech equipment and software, which is something the U.S. government could do.
The latter measure would have directly impacted Russia’s economy and Russians’ pocketbooks.
Some analysts assure that the limited scope of the sanctions responds to a diplomatic strategy, where the United States and Europe expect Putin to take a step back after the initial sanctions.
Nevertheless, the sanctions against Russia will impact the price of fuel in the United States and in some European Union countries that depend to varying degrees on Russia for energy, something that the former president also noted in criticizing Biden’s measures.
“The U.S. was energy independent under the Trump Administration, an independence that we had never obtained before, and oil prices would have remained low. Now, what a mess our country is in!”