WASHINGTON – The Obama administration called Russia’s advances in Ukraine a brazen act of aggression Sunday and threatened sanctions but skirted questions about whether the United States might use force to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The State Department announced Sunday that Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Kiev on Tuesday to show support for the new leadership there in the face of the Russian military intervention. Kerry on Sunday called the rapid movement of Russian troops across the border into Ukraine’s Crimea region unwarranted and outside international law and said Russia would suffer economic and political consequences.
He’s going to lose on the international stage, Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press, referring to Putin. Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose, and he’s going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60 billion extravaganza.
Economic sanctions and travel restrictions on individual Russians are one possibility, as is a U.S. and European boycott of planning meetings this week for the upcoming summit of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations in Russia.
The United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia are members of the G-8.
There are visa bans, asset freezes, isolation with respect to trade, investment, Kerry said on CBS’s Face the Nation. American businesses may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this. These are serious implications.
Kerry also said that the administration was ready to provide economic assistance of a major sort to Ukraine.
President Barack Obama discussed Ukraine on Sunday with the leaders of Germany, Britain and Poland.
Administration officials said the trade and economic penalties being considered would target Russia’s prized economic position abroad. Actions against Russian banks are a possible avenue, one administration official said, while another said the potential actions would be significant and would leave Russia weaker.
This will have a cost on the Russian economy, one senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the unfolding international diplomacy. Some of those costs will be imposed by the United States; some of that Russia has already invited on itself, the official added.
The official acknowledged that efforts are focused on political and economic options.
The situation in Ukraine escalated rapidly over the weekend, with thousands of Russian troops entering Crimea and capturing the Black Sea peninsula without firing a shot. Obama implored Putin to step back during a 90-minute telephone conversation Saturday that the White House described as the toughest of his presidency.
Despite widespread outrage, the United States and other Western nations struggled to show how the mostly symbolic penalties under consideration would help the new leadership in Ukraine fend off Russia or hold on to the restive, Russian-oriented Crimean Peninsula.
The last thing anybody wants is a military option, Kerry said. We want a peaceful resolution through the normal processes of international relations.
Military force is always an option, U.S. officials said.
I won’t get into the different specific options, but this could be a very dangerous situation if this continues in a very provocative way, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Face the Nation. We have many options, like any nations do. We’re trying to deal with the diplomatic focus. That’s the appropriate, responsible approach, and that’s what we’re going to continue.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there is no broad call to arms.