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Washington’s Latest Concern: The Dangers of Cornering Putin

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Washington’s Latest Concern: The Dangers of Cornering Putin

Indeed, President Biden on Thursday announced expanded sanctions aimed at Russia’s elite. Many of the nominees – Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman and one of his close advisers – are among his most influential defenders and beneficiaries of the system he created.

Mr Biden, reading a prepared statement and taking no questions, said the sanctions have “already had a profound effect.”

Hours after he spoke, S&P downgraded Russia’s credit rating to CCC-, the credit-rating agency said in a statement. This is well below the level of junk bonds Russia was ranked for days after the invasion, and just two notches above a warning that the country was going into default.

It suggested that Mr Putin’s attempt to “sanction-proof” his economy had largely failed. And at least for now, there is no clear off-ramp for the Russian leader other than to declare a ceasefire or pull back his forces – steps he has so far shown no interest in taking.

At a news briefing at the White House on Thursday afternoon, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she did not know of any attempts to show Mr Putin a way out. “I think at this point in time, they are heading towards Kyiv with a convoy and are taking supposedly barbaric measures against the people of Ukraine. So now is not the time when we are going to offer options to ease sanctions. are.”

Yet a senior State Department official, asked about the debate within the administration over the risks ahead, said there were nuances in the administration’s approach that point to a possible boycott of the Russian leader.

Mr Biden’s policy, the official said, was not one to demand regime change in Russia. He said the idea was to influence Mr Putin’s actions, not his grip on power. And the sanctions, the official noted, were not designed as punishment, but as leverage to end the war. The official said they would grow if Mr Putin went ahead. But the administration will scrutinize its sanctions, and perhaps ease them, if Mr. Putin begins to de-escalate.

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