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Biden announces plans to revoke Russia's trade relations status

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The United States and its allies are taking more steps to shut Russia out of the world trading system. This morning, President Biden announced the United States, NATO and the EU are all revoking Russia's favored trading status in various nations. The U.S. is also banning imports of Russian vodka and caviar. NPR's Scott Detrow is covering this story. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.

INSKEEP: So while we're talking about more and more steps that just feel more and more permanent, it's hard to imagine a lot of these things going back to just the way they were. What's the goal here?

DETROW: Yeah, it really feels like that divide from the Cold War is back when it comes to Russia isolated from the rest of the world. This is happening because Biden and other world leaders want to put as much pressure on possible on Vladimir Putin to stop these increasingly devastating attacks on Ukraine. But at the same time, Biden explicitly said today he does not want to begin World War III. He does not want American soldiers fighting Russian soldiers in Ukraine. So he's instead used economic weapons.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Putin is an aggressor. He is the aggressor, and Putin must pay the price. He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundations - which he's doing - the very foundations of international peace and stability.

DETROW: And Biden has talked about trying to crush the Russian economy in this moment. There are a lot of signs it's working, and the country is being cut off from world trade more and more each week.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about Russian exports. There's oil, which the U.S. is cutting off. There's weapons, which the U.S. at least doesn't buy a lot of, but other countries do. And then there's a number of luxury goods which get targeted today.

DETROW: There were. Biden talked about signature elements of the Russian export economy. That includes Russian alcohol, seafood, diamonds. You know, vodka and caviar, two things you think about when you think about Russian exports, those are being banned. Biden also added more names to a list of people who are blocked from dealing with the U.S. financial system. This is an attempt to drive a wedge between Putin and the oligarchs who support his regime. Biden said today that these are people who steal from the Russian people and they should share in the pain of these sanctions hurting the Russian economy. And another way to target these oligarchs - Russians also will not be able to buy American watches, high-end clothing, jewelry and other luxury goods, which are being banned from being imported into Russia.

INSKEEP: All this, of course, is being done to support Ukraine. But Ukraine's president, who spoke with Biden today, has not been happy that the U.S. is not doing a little more.

DETROW: He has been - Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been urging, among other things, for NATO to impose a no-fly zone for NATO countries to give Ukraine jets. Biden has repeatedly made it very clear - you know, as I said before, he does not want a direct engagement with Russia in Ukraine right now. And the White House seems to be taking - being very careful about what constitutes military engagement. You've seen the U.S. and allies providing a lot of military supplies to Ukraine, but they drew the line this week when they rejected that Polish plan that would have provided Ukraine with Polish fighter jets. You know, the U.S. has also repeatedly shot down this idea - rejected this idea of a no-fly zone, saying that would constitute a direct involvement in this war.

INSKEEP: Scott, one other thing to ask about - Russia and its ally China have been talking about Ukrainians using chemical or biological weapons. The White House has immediately said, whoa, whoa, whoa. That sounds like preparation for a false flag attack. But is the U.S. specifically saying this is an attack that Russia is preparing?

DETROW: Biden was asked about this today. He said he would not get into the intelligence that mirrors what you've heard from other White House officials who just do not want to provide any details about what they're hearing, what specifically they're hearing. Biden did make a point to say that Russia would pay a severe price if this happens. But, again, no further context for why U.S. officials are suddenly voicing concerns about this.

INSKEEP: Or what the U.S. red line might be in that area.

DETROW: Right.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

DETROW: Sure thing.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Detrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.