White House Labels Russian Troop Movements An Invasion
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to speak to update the situation of the Ukraine-Russia border crisis during an event in Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 18, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Joe Biden gave an update after he held a phone call with Transatlantic leaders to continue diplomatic and deterrence efforts to deescalate the crisis that has been caused by a heavy deployment of Russian troops along the border between the two counties. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House called the movement of Russian forces into Ukraine an “invasion” on Tuesday morning, setting up the possible implementation of strict U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The White House on Monday appeared hesitant to use the strict economic levers that President Joe Biden had promised should Russia invade Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin unilaterally recognized the independence of separatist regions in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts on Monday, ordering Russian troops into the areas on a “peacekeeping” mission.

The White House strengthened its language on the events Tuesday morning.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer said, according to the Associated Press. “An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.”

The Biden administration responded to the Russian invasion of Donetsk and Luhansk with sanctions on the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as recognized by the Kremlin.

“President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Monday. “This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.”

The U.S. response to the Russian invasion was joined by the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom. The EU and U.K. both placed their own sets of initial sanctions on Russia and made threats to ratchet up pressure should Russia continue its advance.

“President Michel and President von der Leyen condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian President to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities,” the EU said in a statement.

“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements,” the statement continued. “The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act. The Union reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.”

A draft document shows that the European bloc plans to place sanctions on businesses and individuals in the regions Russia recognized as “independent” states.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced a set of initial sanctions targeting five Russian banks and three high-net-worth individuals, according to The Wall Street Journal. Johnson called the sanctions a “first barrage” and threatened to add more if Russia continued its invasion into other parts of Ukraine.

Germany, a part of the EU with its own separate ties to Russia, canceled a Russian pipeline project over Putin’s invasion. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced in a press conference Tuesday that he was suspending certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

“In light of the most recent developments we must reassess the situation in particular regarding Nord Stream 2,” Scholz said. “The appropriate departments of the Economy Ministry will make a new assessment of the security of our supply in light of what has changed in last few days.”

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