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Biden Says ‘Now is the Time to Deescalate’ While Announcing New Russia Sanctions

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia in the East Room at the White House, April 15, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Biden suggested it is time to deescalate tensions with Russia in remarks about the sweeping sanctions his administration imposed on Moscow on Thursday.

“Now is the time to deescalate,” Biden said. “The way forward is through thoughtful dialogue and diplomatic process.”

“My bottom line is this: where there’s an interest in the United States to work with Russia, we should and we will,” he said. “When Russia seeks to violate the United States, we will respond. We will always stand in defense of our country.”

Biden’s comments came as the U.S. implemented sanctions against the Russian government on Thursday and expelled 10 Kremlin diplomats from the U.S. over Moscow’s interference in the 2020 U.S. elections, its SolarWinds cyberattack and its ongoing occupation of Crimea.

The punitive actions came after Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and suggested that the pair meet in Europe this summer. A senior administration official told reporters that Biden previewed the U.S. actions to Putin during their call and that Moscow has signaled it intends to respond both publicly and “in other formats.”

Biden said Thursday that his call with the Russian leader was “candid and respectful.”

The president said he warned Putin that the United States would shortly be responding to the SolarWinds cyberattack, which targeted dozens of federal and private entities in the U.S., and Russia’s election interference “in a measured and proportionate way.”

Biden issued an executive order on Thursday granting the Treasury Department the authority to impose a number of punitive measures against Russia, including “the implementation of new prohibitions on certain dealings in Russian sovereign debt, as well as targeted sanctions on technology companies that support the Russian Intelligence Services’ efforts to carry out malicious cyber activities against the United States.”

“I was clear with President Putin, we could have gone further but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate,” he said. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia.”

“We want a stable, predictable relationship,” Biden said, adding that “if Russia continues to interfere with our democracy I’m prepared to take further actions to respond.”

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