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Reporter asks Psaki if Biden is 'waiting for people to die before implementing' sanctions

The press secretary said that Biden has united "countries around the world on a strong package that will be crippling to the Russian economy."

Published: February 20, 2022 5:23pm

Updated: February 20, 2022 6:14pm

Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich on Friday questioned White House press secretary Jen Psaki as to why the Biden administration was "waiting for people to die" before imposing sanctions on Russia.  

American officials have made clear they believe that Russia is likely to invade Ukraine in the coming days.

"At what point do you break away from the strategy and say it’s not working and do something else — impose some of these sanctions now?" Heinrich asked Psaki.

"Our collective view from our national security team is that sanctions are meant to be a deterrent," Psaki responded, adding, "If you put all of the sanctions in place now, what is stopping them from invading?"

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made similar comments over the weekend during a security conference in Munich.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy questioned why the West was waiting to impose sanctions on Russia. 

"We don't need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen, and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied," he said. "Why would we need those sanctions then?"

Heinrich pressed Psaki further on Friday asking if the sanctions were working.

Psaki said that the national security team has determined that the White House was taking the right approach by waiting to implement sanctions.

"So you’re waiting for people to die before implementing them in that case?" Heinrich bluntly asked.

"I think, Jacqui, that’s in no way a fair statement — or accusation, I guess, if that’s what that is," Psaki stated. 

The press secretary said that Biden has united "countries around the world on a strong package that will be crippling to the Russian economy."

Heinrich's question came after Psaki confirmed that the initial sanctions likely would not include removing Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The SWIFT system handles international financial transfers between more than 11,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries, The Hill reported. Cutting the Kremlin off from SWIFT would greatly harm the Russian economy.

"We have other severe measures we can take that our Allies and partners are ready to take in lockstep with us, and that don’t have the same spillover effects," Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh said. "But we always will monitor these options and we’ll — we’ll revise our judgments as time goes on."

About 150,000 Russian troops are estimated to be deployed near the border with Ukraine. As of Sunday afternoon, the Ukranian Ministry of Defense accused Russian armed forces of more than 50 ceasefire violations.

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