- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2022

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put nuclear forces on alert is part of a pattern of manufacturing threats that don’t exist to justify more aggression.

“And the global community and the American people should look at it through that prism,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Putin cited “aggressive” statements from NATO as his country starts to feel the economic squeeze from his invasion of Ukraine, which is ramping up in key cities but may be taking longer than the Kremlin had hoped.

“We’ve seen him do this time and time again,” Ms. Psaki said. “At no point has Russia been under threat from NATO, has Russia been under threat from Ukraine. This is all a pattern from President Putin.”

Some senators have suggested Mr. Putin is no longer acting rationally because of some kind of underlying problem.

“I wish I could share more, but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with Putin,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican and senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted Friday, “He has always been a killer, but his problem now is different & significant.”

Ms. Psaki declined to diagnose the Russian leader.

“I’m not going to make an assessment of his mental stability,” she said. “But I will tell you, certainly, the rhetoric, the actions, the justification that he‘s making for his actions are certainly deeply concerning to us.”

She said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, by contrast, has been a brave leader and chosen to “stay in Kyiv, to stay in Ukraine and lead the nation in this very difficult moment.”

The U.S. and Europe imposed financial sanctions on Moscow but Republicans in Congress are pressing President Biden to instill more crippling sanctions on Russian energy and tap into U.S. sources.

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said Mr. Biden should allow drilling on federal lands and reopen the Keystone Pipeline that Mr. Biden nixed last year.

Ms. Psaki called that a “misdiagnosis.”

“The Keystone Pipeline was not processing oil through the system,” she said. “That does not solve any problems.”

“I would also note that on oil leases, what this actually justifies, in President Biden’s view, is the fact that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, on oil in general, and we need to look at other ways of processing — of having energy in our country and others,” she said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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