When the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine in 2014, American officials were hopeful they would deter President Vladimir V. Putin from further aggression.
Some of the officials argue today that the sanctions prevented Mr. Putin from ordering Russian forces beyond where they had halted on the Crimean Peninsula and in the eastern Donbas region. But Mr. Putin held on to Crimea. And on Monday, he ordered more troops into an insurgent-controlled area of eastern Ukraine where thousands of Russian soldiers have been operating and said the Kremlin was recognizing two enclaves as independent states.
Edward Fishman, a top State Department sanctions official in the Obama administration, called Mr. Biden’s action on Tuesday a modest first step intended as “a shot across the bow.”
Mr. Fishman said the administration’s move against one of the two targeted banks — VEB, the country’s main development bank — was the first time the United States had fully cut off a state-owned Russian financial institution. “I interpret that as a warning that the Biden administration is prepared to cut off other major Russian banks from the U.S. financial system,” Mr. Fishman said.
“Biden is giving Putin an opportunity to step away from the brink,” he added. “But he’s also signaling that, if Putin unleashes a full-scale war, the economic costs will be immense.”
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