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US Sanctions Fall Short of Halting Russian War Machine as Ukraine War Enters New Phase

Russian President Vladimir Putin is captured in this photo making the sign of the cross. (Sergei Guneyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The next phase of the Russian war on Ukraine has begun, with a specific focus on the Eastern Donbas region. 

As President Vladimir Putin goes on the offensive, experts warn the Biden administration's gradual approach to sanctions has not slowed down the Russian war machine. 

"When the Biden administration announced sanctions on the 24th of February, they specifically said, in fact, the president himself tweeted, that their goal was to reduce the 'ruble to ruble.' Unfortunately, as we've seen today with the ruble trading at higher levels against the dollar since before the attack, by their own metric, the Biden administration has failed," said Marshall Billingslea, former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the Treasury Department.

He says, instead of dealing a crushing blow to Russia's economy, the Biden administration has deferred to European countries that rely on Russian oil and gas.

"They'd rather see the price of the heating bills in their home be lower than to take the shorter-term economic pain to cause Putin's war machine to meltdown financially," Billingslea told CBN News.

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He believes what's needed is the playbook used against Iran and Venezuela during the Trump administration. 

That would include full sanctions on the energy sector, accompanied by secondary sanctions against any country continuing to do business with Russia. 

Similar action would need to be taken against other valuable exports like metals and minerals, as well as full sanctions against the entire Russian financial sector. 

"Why are we pulling our punches? What is the moral compass at work here given what we're seeing? I don't see it, and I find the refusal to fully sanction the Russian economy into the ground, the way they are physically doing to the Ukrainian people. I find it morally unconscionable that we're not doing more, and faster, and better," said Billingslea. " 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pushing the Biden administration to trigger some of the toughest sanctions under U.S. law by designating Russia a State Sponsor of Terror. 

"There are only a handful of countries that have been designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism and Russia belongs in that camp," Billingslea pointed out.

Yet, the question remains: would the designation and its consequences have any impact?

"I don't believe that Putin is in the habit of receiving messages at this stage," Billingslea said. "The key is perhaps not messaging to him, it's messaging to those around him that, unless and until the war stops in Ukraine, and perhaps unless and until Vladimir Putin is gone, the sanctions pressure will continue to grow and Russia will be reduced back to its Soviet-era breadlines." 

As the fighting in Ukraine again escalates, the Biden administration says it's committed to raising pressure on Russia. 

Many observers are asking, however, will it be enough?

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