Biden’s chief of staff on potential Putin sanctions: “Nothing on the economic side is off the table”

As tensions rise with Russia over a possible invasion of Ukraine, President Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain told CBS News that “nothing on the economic side is off the table” when it comes to sanctions. 

Mr. Biden said Wednesday that it was his “guess” that Russian President Vladimir Putin will “move in” to Ukraine. 

“If he violates these international norms, if he upsets the regime that’s existed in Europe for decades now of respecting international borders … the consequences for Russia will be severe,” Klain told “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell on Thursday. “We can make President Putin, make the regime in Russia, pay a price for this action if that’s what he does.”

When pressed if that meant sanctioning Putin personally, Klain said, “nothing on the economic side is off the table.” Klain said the decision on whether to personally sanction Putin would be made “at the appropriate time” by the president and national security officials.   

The U.S. has repeatedly warned Russia not to invade Ukraine, but Russia has continued to build up its forces along the border. Russia has also moved military hardware and troops into Belarus, which borders Ukraine, for military exercises scheduled for February. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Wednesday that Russia could attack on “very short notice.” 

U.S. officials have confirmed to CBS News that Mr. Biden has permitted several NATO allies to deliver emergency shipments of U.S.-made weapons — including anti-tank missiles — to Ukraine in preparation for an attack.

Klain said the U.S. would also respond to other aggressive acts, including cyberattacks, against Ukraine. 

“Obviously, those are different than a military invasion. The consequences will be different, but they will be met with appropriate and harsh consequences,” he said. 

Klain also spoke with O’Donnell about the president’s Build Back Better plan, saying that the administration believes it can pass the plan in smaller pieces after it failed to get enough support in the Senate. 

“We think we can get these key elements passed by the Senate. They’ve passed the House,” he said. “We need to get ’em through the Senate. Obviously, it’s not done till it’s done.” 

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