- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014

President Obama joined world leaders in condemning Russian military encroachment into Ukraine after two columns of tanks and armored vehicles fired on a border crossing and entered the country Thursday, but he stopped short of describing the action as an invasion.

Mr. Obama publicly chastised Russia during an afternoon news conference at the White House, noting the United States would continue to “stand firm” with its allies and partners in denouncing the country’s aggressive behavior.

Asked specifically if he considered the action to be an invasion, Mr. Obama chose his words carefully, calling the incursion a “continuation of what’s been happening for months now,” and noting that the uprising has been backed, trained, armed and financed by Russia.

And while Mr. Obama offered few details on what steps he would take to curb the aggressive behavior, he was clear on what he would not do.

“We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem,” he said. “What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia. I think it is important to recognize that a military solution to this problem will not be forthcoming.”

The president’s remarks came after an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, in which U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power blasted Russia’s deceptive ways.

“It has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied,” she said.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin did not deny the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, saying Kiev “is waging war against its own people.”

NATO officials were quick to paint the incident as an invasion and make public Thursday morning never before seen satellite images of Russian artillery inside Ukraine and a training area near the border to back up their claim that Russia is preparing for further action.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said Thursday that the conflict began when shots were fired from Russian territory at 11 a.m., the border was crossed at about 12:30 p.m., and Ukrainian forces fled in the face of the Russian advance.

“Our border servicemen and guardsmen retreated as they did not have heavy equipment,” Ukrainian Col. Andriy Lysenko said.

The encroachment comes amid what is widely regarded to be an effort by Russia to come to the aid of separatists under siege by Ukrainian forces in the eastern towns of Donetsk and Luhansk.

About 1,000 Russian troops were estimated to have filed into Ukraine, with as many as 20,000 still massed on the border.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia faces a new round of economic sanctions if it continues its course of action.

“We urge Russia to pursue a different path and to find a political solution to this crisis,” he said. “If Russia does not, then she should be in no doubt that there will be further consequences.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she anticipates discussing with fellow European Union members on Saturday the possibility of applying increased financial pressure on Russia, the Reuters news agency reported.

But questions remain about whether the United States and the EU are capable of putting together a block of sanctions that would effectively deter Russia’s ambitions.

Steve Ganyard, president of Avascent International and former deputy assistant secretary of state, speculated that a desire among allies and partners to protect their national interests could clog the sanctions pipeline.

“To make sanctions work, you have to have some sort of unified block,” he said. “And in this case, that’s very tough to do because the companies and the economies that will get hurt the most are the European countries.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports