Russia-Ukraine: White House plays clean-up after Biden says 'no one expected' sanctions 'to prevent anything'

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds press conference as Russia invades Ukraine

The White House played clean-up Thursday evening after President Biden claimed “no one expected” sanctions to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine, despite claiming for weeks that the mere threat of sanctions would serve as a deterrent effect.

White House deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh told reporters said that had the Biden administration “unleashed our entire package of financial sanctions preemptively,” Putin still likely would have invaded Ukraine. 

“Number one, President Putin might have said, ‘Look, these people are not serious about diplomacy. They’re not engaging in a good-faith effort to promote peace, instead they’re escalating,’” Singh hypothesized. “And that could provide a justification for him to escalate and invade. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin, in Moscow on February 14, 2022.
((Photo by ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images))

“Secondly, he could look at it as a sunk cost,” he continued. “In other words, President Putin could think, ‘I’ve already paid the price, why don’t I actually take what I paid for, which is Ukraine’s freedom.’ So that’s what we wanted to avoid. 

“Ultimately, the goal of our sanctions is to make this a strategic failure for Russia,” he added. “Strategic success in the 21st century is not about a physical land grab of territory. That’s what Putin has done. In this century, strategic power is increasingly measured and exercised by economic strength, by technological sophistication, and your story – who you are, what your values are, can you attract good ideas and talent and goodwill? And on each of those measures this will be a failure for Russia.”

Reporters raise their hands to ask questions as Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh speaks during a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on February 24, 2022.
(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier Thursday, Biden announced new sanctions on top of previous ones against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, but he later admitted that “no one” expected the sanctions to prevent the invasion.

“No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening,” Biden said. “This could take time, and we have to show resolve, so he knows what’s coming and so the people of Russia know what he’s brought on them, this is what this is all about.”

President Biden calls on reporters for questions while speaking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This appeared to go against Vice President Kamala Harris’ comments on Sunday that claimed, “The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence.” On Feb. 11, national security advisor Jake Sullivan similarly claimed that “sanctions are intended to deter.” On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “deterrence is part of our objective.”

Biden stopped short of sanctioning Putin himself Thursday, and he did not announce a ban on Russia from the SWIFT banking system, saying Europe is not on board with such a move.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report.

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