The United States warned Russia Tuesday that it would face faster and far more severe economic consequences if it invades Ukraine than it did when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
“We are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014,” a national security official told reporters in Washington. “That means the gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there.”
The official, speaking anonymously, said the U.S. is “also prepared to impose novel export controls” to hobble the Russian economy.
“You can think of these export controls as trade restrictions in the service of broader U.S. national security interests,” the official said.
“We use them to prohibit the export of products from Russia,” the official said. “And given the reason they work is if you … step back and look at the global dominance of U.S.-origin software technology, the export control options we’re considering alongside our allies and partners would hit (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard, and it would impair areas that are of importance to him, whether it’s in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or defense or aerospace or other key sectors.”
The U.S. and its allies imposed less severe economic sanctions against Moscow after its Crimean takeover, but they ultimately proved ineffective, and the peninsula remains under Russian control.
The U.S. is also working with energy producers around the world, another security official said, to supply fuel to Western European countries in the event Putin cuts off Russia’s flow of natural gas to the West.
One of the U.S. security officials echoed President Joe Biden in saying that the U.S. and its Western allies are “unified in our intention to impose massive consequences that would deliver a severe and immediate blow to Russia over time, make its economy even more brittle and undercut Putin’s aspirations to exert influence on the world stage.”
Tuesday’s White House warning came as Russia said it is watching “with great concern” as the U.S. on Monday put 8,500 troops on heightened alert for possible deployment to Eastern Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated to reporters Russian accusations that the United States is escalating tensions in the crisis along the Russia-Ukraine border, where Putin has deployed an estimated 127,000 troops.
Biden met virtually Monday with key European leaders to discuss the ongoing threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I had a very, very, very good meeting — total unanimity with all the European leaders,” Biden told reporters after hosting a secure video call with allied leaders from Europe, the European Union and NATO.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office released a statement that supported Biden’s summation, saying, “The leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility.”
Biden has not decided whether to move U.S. military equipment and personnel closer to Russia. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in advance of the meeting with the European officials that the United States has “always said we’d support allies on the eastern flank” abutting Russia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin placed 8,500 U.S. military personnel on “high alert” of being dispatched to Eastern Europe, where most of them could be activated as part of a NATO response force if Russia invades Ukraine.
“It’s very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “What this is about, though, is reassurance to our NATO allies.”
Biden has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine if Russia invades the onetime Soviet republic but vowed to impose quick and severe economic sanctions on Moscow.