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6 Times Biden's Aides Contradicted His 'Sanctions Never Deter' Claim

Evelyn Hockstein, Pool via AP

In his remarks Thursday in Brussels after an emergency summit with NATO leaders to discuss Russia's war on Ukraine, President Biden made a claim about sanctions that contradicted what many in his own administration have previously asserted. 


"I did not say that, in fact, that sanctions would deter" Putin from invading Ukraine, Biden said during his press conference. "Sanctions never deter," he concluded repeatedly and with the confidence of someone who apparently doesn't remember what his own senior officials have said over the last several weeks.

As it turns out, Biden's claim that "sanctions never deter" runs opposite what his administration touted for weeks as supposed proof of action to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's roll toward invading Ukraine.

"Sanctions are not an end to themselves.  They serve a higher purpose.  And that purpose is to deter and prevent. They’re meant to prevent and deter a large-scale invasion of Ukraine that could involve the seizure of major cities, including Kyiv," said Biden's Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh.

"The purpose of the sanctions in the first instance is to try to deter Russia from going to war," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CNN. 

"We want them to have a deterrent effect, clearly,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said of the Biden administration's sanctions on Russia during an interview on Fox News. 

“The President believes that sanctions are intended to deter,” said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

"We do see them as having a deterrent impact," Psaki said of sanctions in a press briefing. She later emphasized "there is a deterrent" brought to bear with sanctions, claiming "we’ve seen the deterrent impact work at times.  Right?"


Even Vice President Kamala Harris contradicted Biden's Thursday statement when she said "The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence." When she received some pushback from a reporter, she doubled down: "Absolut- — we strongly believe — and remember also that the sanctions are a product not only of our perspective as the United States but a shared perspective among our Allies.  And the Allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrence effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one," Harris said. 

So while Biden trots around the world claiming to be "President Unity," he can't even maintain unified messaging within his own administration.

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