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Additional global sanctions will be a blow to Putin, Sen. Klobuchar says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This morning, the world looks different. Russia is at war with Ukraine. The sounds of alarms and shelling could be heard in major cities around the country. There are long lines at gas stations as Ukrainians in the east and the south try to move west towards Europe to escape danger. President Biden is expected to speak later today. He is promising stronger sanctions against Russia in response, but still no U.S. boots on the ground.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, joins us this morning. Senator, thank you for being here.

AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thank you, Rachel, and thank you for focusing on this. I just think one of our goals here was in the past, Vladimir Putin has invaded other countries. He's literally tried to invade our own elections. And it just always seemed like it suddenly happens. No more. Our country, along with Great Britain and other countries, put out the intelligence. We showed what he was doing. We showed the bridges he was building. We heard the warnings. And now you have a coordinated response, including, significantly, Germany with an $11 billion natural gas pipeline, which would have been a cash cow to Russia's coffers.

MARTIN: Right, let's talk...

KLOBUCHAR: OK, go ahead.

MARTIN: ...About some of these sanctions. Let's talk about some of these sanctions. So you're right.

KLOBUCHAR: Sure.

MARTIN: Germany's chancellor has put a stop to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is a hit to Russia. We saw the Biden administration put forward a first tranche of sanctions yesterday. More are likely today. What are you expecting those to target?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, they're going to be targeting individuals. They're going to be targeting oligarchs. You've already seen some of that come out with their holdings. And this is not just the U.S. This is the EU. I keep harboring this point for a reason. This isn't just the U.S. You heard every country from Kenya to New Zealand come out strongly against Vladimir Putin's actions, and it is individual, financial institutions in Russia, glorified piggy banks for the Kremlin that hold $50 billion, one of them, in assets. Going after them so they cannot transact is going to really, really create a strong blow at the Kremlin's financial situation.

MARTIN: But hasn't Putin already factored...

KLOBUCHAR: We just simply cannot...

MARTIN: Senator, hasn't...

KLOBUCHAR: Go ahead.

MARTIN: Hasn't Vladimir Putin already factored that likelihood in? I mean, sanctions were supposed to deter him from invading Ukraine. It's already happened. So what difference can they make at this point in terms of stopping his incursion into Ukraine?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't rule anything out here. And the fact that the world has come out so strongly - I don't think he anticipated that. I don't think he thought that the EU and the European countries would act like this because he looked at the past and thought the world was his playground. And what you're seeing now is a coordinated response, which is going to hit him economically. We also, of course, has coordinated on military aid, on sending troops to other NATO countries, and you see other countries rising up as well. I don't think he expected the U.N. ambassador of Kenya to give the speech that he did or to see the kind of condemnation around the world. This is a different diplomacy, and this is a stronger world that has said enough is enough. And we simply cannot allow him to invade democracies around the world like this. And he thinks he can. And I think for once, we're seeing a much stronger coordinated response. And you're right, the U.S. cannot do this alone. The president has made this clear. We have to coordinate with the EU, NATO and countries around the world.

MARTIN: President Biden has said no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine. NATO says the same. Does the alliance lose leverage by taking even just the threat of that option off the table publicly?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think the alliance had to be clear about where they stood on this and been straightforward. But again, there are so many other ways to get at what Vladimir Putin is doing. And you also have the people of Ukraine. And I think if you talk to anyone that studied Ukraine, they're not just going to take this. If he goes in there in some fashion, they're not just going to succumb to this. And it may not be an immediate obvious fact, but over time, you've seen a country that time and time again has shown incredible bravery. They've lost 14,000 people since he last came in here. I was just in Ukraine a few weeks ago with a bipartisan delegation, saw firsthand their commitment. I stood with Senator McCain on the front line with their troops a number of years ago. This is a proud nation that is not just going to take this standing down.

MARTIN: Pride cannot push back Vladimir Putin, though, in total. I mean, the Ukrainian military - they've invested a lot of money and resources into building that up since 2014. But I talked to, you know, retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former joint chiefs of staff moments ago, who said, even so, Ukraine simply doesn't have the manpower or the might to push back Russian forces. So, I mean, we're looking at potentially an occupation, maybe an insurgency. Is the U.S. prepared to fund that kind of insurgency?

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, let's look at where we are today, and that is on sanctions. And don't underestimate the power of these sanctions. Together, the U.S. and Europe has something like 45% of the world's GDP. You add into that our allies, other countries that are standing with us - well over 50% of GDP. The effect when all of these countries where Russia has holdings, where Russia does business - it is a major, major gut punch. And so I just think minimizing the effect of these sanctions is a mistake, especially with what Germany has just done with Nord Stream 2. I think that is a major force that they did not expect, and we always knew that they had the - when they were starting to amass the forces at the borders, that's obviously a mismatch with Ukraine. But we have a mismatch too, and that is the world working together against them.

MARTIN: Senator Amy Klobuchar, we appreciate your time and context. Democrat from Minnesota, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.