Putin’s nuclear alert part of ‘pattern’ of ‘manufactured threats’: Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his country’s nuclear deterrent forces on heightened alert was part of a “pattern” of ” manufacturing threats that do not exist”.

“It’s really a pattern we’ve seen from President Putin during this conflict, fabricating threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression,” Psaki told ABC’s This Week anchor. “George Stephanopoulos. “And the global community and the American people should look at it through that prism.”

Putin announced on Sunday that he had ordered his military to bring Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to a heightened state of readiness in response to what he called “aggressive statements” from NATO countries.

“We’ve seen him do this time and time again,” Psaki said. “At no time was Russia threatened by NATO, Russia was not threatened by Ukraine. All of this is a model of President Putin.”

The move came as Western countries rolled out waves of financial sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, which could cripple the Russian economy. The United States and other countries have also stepped up their military aid to Ukraine.

Observers have questioned whether Putin is acting rationally, with a former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, saying this week that he doesn’t think the Russian president is.

“I wish I could share more,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted Friday, “but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is wrong with Putin.”

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether the US government thought Putin was mentally unbalanced in any way, Psaki said the Russian leader had made clear his “ambitions beyond” only justifying the invasion of Israel. Ukraine.

“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 he makes for his actions is certainly of deep concern to us. .”

Asked by Stephanopoulos if President Joe Biden was confident that his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was safe, Psaki declined to say and instead praised the Ukrainian leader.

“He’s been in close contact,” Psaki said. “Without getting into his security – the security of President Zelenskyy – I will just note, George, as the American people have seen and heard, that he stands courageously against the invasion of President Putin and Russian leadership. , leading his country and continuing to do so.”

In an earlier interview on “This Week,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova told Stephanopoulos that Zelenskyy is “as safe as our country.”

“It’s the choice he made to stay in Kyiv, to stay in Ukraine and to lead the nation in this very difficult time,” she said.

The United States and its Western allies said on Saturday they would target Russia’s central bank and block some of the country’s banks from participating in a system facilitating international transactions.

But in addition to shutting down a Russian pipeline that had yet to start pumping gas to Europe, the countries stopped issuing crippling sanctions against Russia’s oil and gas industry, a major sector of its economy.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Called on the Biden administration to sanction Russia’s energy sector while lifting restrictions on drilling on U.S. federal lands and reopening the Keystone pipeline, whose license Biden revoked in June . Stephanopoulos pressed Psaki on these proposals.

“The Keystone Pipeline was not processing oil through the system,” Psaki said. “It doesn’t solve any problem. It’s a misdiagnosis…of what needs to happen,” she said. “I would also like to note that on oil leases, what this actually justifies, according to President Biden, is the fact that we have to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, on oil in general, and we have to look at other means of treatment – – to have energy in our country and in the others.”

Much of Western Europe, especially Germany, depends on Russian gas, and the United States has refrained from hitting Russia’s oil and gas sector to avoid a price spike in Europe and the United States. United.

“We want to take all necessary steps to maximize the impact and consequences on President Putin, while minimizing the impact on the American people and the global community,” Psaki said. “And so energy sanctions are certainly on the table. We haven’t removed them. But we also want to do that and make sure that we minimize the impact on the global market and do it in a united way.”

ABC News’ Patrick Reevell and Tanya Stukalova contributed to this report.

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