Obama to Russia: More Sanctions Ready 04/24 06:47
Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments, President Barack
Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has another round of
economic sanctions "teed up" -- even as he acknowledged those penalties may do
little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in Ukraine.
TOKYO (AP) -- Accusing Russia of failing to live up to its commitments,
President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Thursday that the United States has
another round of economic sanctions "teed up" --- even as he acknowledged those
penalties may do little to influence Vladimir Putin's handling of the crisis in
Obama's frank pessimism underscored the limits of Washington's ability to
prevent Russia from stirring up instability in Ukraine's east and exerting
influence over elections scheduled for next month in the former Soviet
republic. A diplomatic accord that offered a glimmer of hope for a resolution
to the tense dispute is crumbling, and Russia has warned of a firm response if
the country's citizens or interests in Ukraine are attacked.
With no appetite in the U.S. for a military response, Obama is largely
banking on Putin, the Russian president, caving under a cascade of economic
sanctions targeting his closest associates. But the success of that strategy
also depends on European nations with closer financial ties to Moscow taking
similar action despite their concern about a boomerang effect on their own
"I understand that additional sanctions may not change Mr. Putin's
calculus," Obama said during a joint news conference in Tokyo with Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "How well they change his calculus in part depends
on not only us applying sanctions but also the cooperation of other countries."
The president's comments came one week after Russia signed an agreement with
the U.S., Ukraine and Europe that called for pro-Russian forces to leave the
government buildings they have occupied throughout eastern Ukraine and allow
international monitors into the region. But there's been little indication that
Russia is following through on its commitments.
"There was some possibility that Russia could take the wiser course after
the meeting in Geneva," Obama said. "So far at least, we have seen them not
abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement."
The president said the U.S. has crafted a new package of sanctions to punish
Russia for failing to follow through on the Geneva accord, but he stopped short
of saying he had, in fact, decided to move forward with those penalties.
"There's always the possibility that Russia tomorrow or the next day takes a
different course," he said. "Do I think they're going to do that? So far the
evidence doesn't make me hopeful."
Echoing comments from other officials in Washington, Obama said a decision
on the sanctions would come in a matter of days, not weeks. That timeline would
appear to put the decision in the midst of Obama's eight-day Asia trip, which
also includes stops in South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The pending penalties on Russia are expected to target wealthy individuals
in Putin's inner circle, as well as the entities they oversee. Although U.S.
has also threatened to levy potentially crippling sanctions on key Russian
industries --- including its robust energy sector --- officials say they only
plan to employ those tougher penalties if Russia moves military forces into
The U.S. and Europe have already issued asset freezes and visa bans
targeting Russian and Ukrainian officials in response to the Kremlin's
annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. But those penalties have appeared to do
little to convince to Putin to avoid fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, where
the U.S. is accusing Russia of fomenting unrest.
Putin has denied that his country is the guiding force behind the
pro-Russian insurgents who have occupied government buildings in nearly a dozen
cities in Ukraine's east. Russian officials have instead focused their
attention on the forces Ukraine's government has sent to the region in an
effort to counter the occupying insurgents.
"If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have
been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other
way but to respond in full accordance with international law," Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. He was referring to the 2008 war that
led to the breaking away of the Georgian republic of South Ossetia.
In that conflict, Russia launched an invasion of Georgia after it unleashed
an artillery attack on the capital of the separatist region, where Russian
peacekeeping forces were stationed.