Biden Stands Up To Putin Signaling End Of Trump Appeasement Era

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According to a new report from The Washington Post, the Biden administration is considering imposing restrictions on exports to Russia of certain tech items, which could seriously curtail the ability of companies in the country to operate in areas from artificial intelligence to civilian air travel. According to the Post, Biden administration officials say that the president’s team “may also decide to apply the control more broadly in a way that would potentially deprive Russian citizens of some smartphones, tablets and video game consoles.” These restrictions would be in response to a potential Russian attack on Ukraine; recently, the Russian government has been growing its military presence on the Ukrainian border, heightening global worries of an imminent invasion.

The procedural mechanism that is under consideration was identified by the Post as the foreign direct product rule, and it’s been used against the Chinese tech company Huawei. As explained by the Post, the “attraction of using the foreign direct product rule derives from the fact that virtually anything electronic these days includes semiconductors, the tiny components on which all modern technology depends, from smartphones to jets to quantum computers — and that there is hardly a semiconductor on the planet that is not made with U.S. tools or designed with U.S. software.” Thus, the United States could have the ability to leverage its broad footprint in the tech industry against Russia, cutting it off from obtaining critical items that the U.S. is at least partly responsible for producing in the first place.

The Post indicates that there have been international deliberations about using this sort of affront against Russia, explaining that “officials in Washington say they are working with European and Asian allies to craft a version of the rule that would aim to stop flows of crucial components to industries for which Russian President Vladimir Putin has high ambitions, such as civil aviation, maritime and high technology.” A current official in the Biden administration, who was not named in the report, said that the “power of these export controls is we can degrade and atrophy the capacity of these sectors to become a key source of growth for the Russian economy.”

Potential complications include the fact that foreign companies could seek to craft their products without a need for the involvement of U.S. firms, and the Russian government-owned defense and tech company known as Rostec insisted, regarding the potential imposition of these restrictions on exports, that they “have managed and will manage again, albeit not immediately, but very quickly — we have proven this more than once.” Meanwhile, other options for actions against the country include financial sanctions, which could drive down the value of Russian currency. President Joe Biden has directly spoken with Putin, including on a call late last year, after which White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden “made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”

Notably, Trump took the exact opposite stance on this general issue while in office as president — he advocated for Putin to be brought back into the G7 group of world leaders, despite the fact that it’s Russian aggression towards Ukraine that specifically sparked Russia’s previous removal from that particular coalition.