Biden Loses It When CBS Points Out Sanctions Didn’t Deter Putin

During a Thursday press conference following an emergency NATO summit in Brussels to address the war in Ukraine, President Biden was pressed by CBS News correspondent Christina Ruffini on the fact that economic sanctions failed to deter Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from attacking Ukraine. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Biden angrily denied that sanctions were ever meant to be a form of deterrence and accused Ruffini of “playing a game” with him.

“Sir, deterrence didn’t work. What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you’ve taken today?” Ruffini asked at the end of the brief presser. Biden huffed in reply: “Let’s get something straight, do you remember, if you covered me, from the very beginning I did not say that, in fact, the sanctions would deter him.” He then proclaimed: “Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter.”

Undeterred herself, Ruffini followed up: “Do you believe the actions today will have an impact on making Russia change course in Ukraine?” Biden grew even more agitated: “That’s not what I said, you’re playing a game with me, I know. The answer’s no.”

As the press conference concluded, CBS correspondent Major Garrett, who was anchoring the network’s special coverage, immediately fact-checked the President’s false assertions: “History will record that before this invasion of Ukraine began, several administration officials representing the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, said in fact sanctions might deter that invasion.”

Garrett noted: “The President just said, again, emphatically, they don’t deter, what they do is they sustain pressure over time hoping to achieve a different result.” He then turned to White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe, traveling with Biden in Europe, who called out the major shift in the administration’s position on sanctions: “Well, you make a good point there, that yes, in the lead-up to all of this, administration had said this was designed to deter and the story has changed since they were enacted.”

As reported by The Hill on February 20, just days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Secretary of State Antony Blinken explicitly told multiple media outlets that the purpose of economic sanctions was to deter Putin. “The purpose of the sanctions in the first instance is to try to deter Russia from going to war,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union that day. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Blinken similarly argued the sanctions were part of an international effort “to build everything we can to deter him [Putin] from the course that he’s now set on.”

This is far from the first time that Biden has lashed out a reporter for asking a legitimate question. In January, the President notoriously called Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy “a stupid son of a bitch” for asking about the political impact of soaring inflation on the Democratic Party’s chances in the November midterm elections.

In addition to Ruffini’s grilling, Biden also got a tough question from ABC’s Cecilia Vega, who challenged: “You do not want to see World War III but is it possible that in expressing…so early that you were too quick to rule out direct military intervention in this war? Could Putin have been emboldened knowing that you will not get directly involved in this?” In response, the President only offered a terse “No and no.”

Here is a transcript Ruffini’s March 24 exchange with Biden, along with fact-checking from Garrett and O’Keefe:

1:49 PM ET

(…)

JOE BIDEN: Someone I haven’t called on before. You. Who are you?

CHRISTINA RUFFINI: I’m Christina Ruffini from CBS. Thank you, sir.

BIDEN: Okay.

RUFFINI: Sir, deterrence didn’t work. What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you’ve taken today?

BIDEN: Let’s get something straight, do you remember, if you covered me, from the very beginning I did not say that, in fact, the sanctions would deter him. Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter. The maintenance of sanctions, the maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain, and the demonstration – why I asked for this NATO meeting today – is to be sure that after a month we will sustain what we’re doing, not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year. That’s what will stop him.

RUFFINI: Do you believe the actions today will have an impact on making Russia change course in Ukraine?

BIDEN: That’s not what I said, you’re playing a game with me, I know. The answer’s no. I think what happens is we have to demonstrate – the purpose – the single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people’s lives are being lost and ruined and what’s going on. That’s the important thing.

But look, if you’re Putin and you think that the – that Europe is going to crack in a month or six weeks, or two months, why not – they can take anything for another month. But we have to demonstrate. The reason I asked for the meeting, we have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united. Thank you.

MAJOR GARRETT: CBS correspondent Christina Ruffini getting that last question in to President Biden. History will record that before this invasion of Ukraine began, several administration officials representing the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, said in fact sanctions might deter that invasion. The President just said, again, emphatically, they don’t deter, what they do is they sustain pressure over time hoping to achieve a different result.

Ed O’Keefe, our White House correspondent, is outside NATO headquarters, joins us now. Ed, your thoughts?

ED O’KEEFE: Well, you make a good point there, that yes, in the lead-up to all of this, administration had said this was designed to deter and the story has changed since they were enacted.

(…)

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