Editor's note: This article has been updated to include information about the specific banks President Joe Biden's administration plans to sanction.
President Joe Biden spoke from the White House East Room Feb. 24 about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “premeditated attack” Russian President Vladimir Putin planned for months.
Despite the White House warning of a potential attack by Russia against Ukraine in an effort to build a response from NATO, Biden said Putin did exactly what was expected of him.
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war,” Biden said. “And now he and his country will bear the consequences.”
Biden announced several economic sanctions against Russia, including cutting off the country’s largest banks and technology exports. Biden said the U.S. plans to sanction several large Russian banks — Sberbank and its 25 subsidiaries, VTB Bank and its 20 subsidiaries, Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank, OJSC and Novikombank.
Although Biden said troops will be deployed to NATO’s eastern flank, such as Germany, he made it clear U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine. However, he also said the U.S. is prepared to respond to any cyberattacks Russia may conduct on American governments or corporations.
In a message to Americans concerned about how the conflict will affect their daily lives, Biden said his administration is focused on keeping gas prices low and encouraging oil companies to “not exploit this moment.” If conditions warrant, he said the U.S. will release additional barrels of oil from the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
“This aggression cannot go unanswered,” Biden said. “If it did, the consequences for America would be much worse.”
In the first reference to Russia as an “empire” since former President Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire” speech in 1983, Biden called Russia’s invasion “Putin’s desire for empire, by any means necessary.”
In response to reporters’ questions regarding whether he has any plans to talk to Putin, Biden said he has none.
Biden said he believes Russia is looking at more than just Ukraine.
“[Putin] has much higher ambitions than Ukraine,” Biden said. “He wants to, in fact, re-establish the former Soviet Union — that’s what this is about.”