US General Tod Wolters admitted President Biden’s strategy to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine backfired during a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Wolters made the confession in response to questions from Wisconsin Republican Representative Mike Gallagher. Although Gallagher did not mention Biden by name, he questioned Wolters about the effectiveness of the American efforts to deter the Russian invasion by non-military means in the months leading up to the invasion.
“You, as a combatant commander, felt you were part of a multi-agency effort to stop Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine?” asked Gallagher.
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“That’s right,” said Wolters. “Discourage and discourage.”
“Would it be fair to say that deterrence has failed in Ukraine?” Gallagher pressed.
“First, I would say that NATO solidarity has remained,” Wolters began, before being interrupted by Gallagher who insisted on a direct answer to the question.
“I can’t argue with your conclusion,” Wolters finished.
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The exchange comes as the Biden administration continues to insist that its threats of sanctions against Russia were never intended to deter an invasion.
“Let’s get things straight,” Biden told a reporter who pressed him on Thursday. “Remember when you covered me up from the start, I didn’t say the sanctions would even deter him. Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter.”
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Vice President Kamala Harris, however, indicated otherwise when asked in February whether she believed sanctions would deter Putin.
“Absolutely – we strongly believe in it – and also remember that the sanctions are not just a product of our perspective as the United States, but a shared perspective of our allies. And the allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrent effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one, especially because — also remember — we still sincerely hope there is a diplomatic way out of this moment,” she said at the time.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also stated in a February interview with CNN that “the primary purpose of the sanctions is to try to stop Russia from going to war”.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also confirmed that the purpose of Biden’s sanctions was to have a deterrent effect.
“Sanctions can be a powerful tool,” Psaki said. “They’ve been many times throughout history. And how we see them — or how we see them when we start high, as Daleep has just pointed out here, in terms of the significance and severity of the sanctions announced today – yes, our intention is to have a deterrent effect.”