President Obama on Sunday spoke via phone with Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the White House. The leaders discussed a financial aid package to Ukraine, and the administration stressed that working with international allies is vital as it considers the path forward.
“The United States and the president is currently considering all options. They are all on the table,” Mr. Kerry said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “There’s no question but that Russia needs to understand this is serious, and we and other friends and allies engaged in this are all deadly serious about this. You cannot behave this way in the 21st century and sit around the table with the normal entities and pretend that life is as usual. It is not going to be as usual.”
Mr. Kerry specifically mentioned “very serious repercussions on trade, on investment, on assets, asset freeze” and other steps.
The U.S. imported nearly $27 billion in Russian goods last year while selling more than $11 billion in American products to Russia. Cutting off the U.S. as a market for Russian businesses, in conjunction with other economic sanctions, could deal a significant blow to Russia’s economy, supporters of the strategy argue.
But that route may lead to Russian retaliation and, in turn, hurt the U.S. or its allies, said Steven Bucci, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation.
“Could they retaliate? Yes. They’re probably not going to retaliate directly against the U.S., but they could put pressure on the Europeans. Europe is much more beholden to Russia for energy than we are,” Mr. Bucci said, referencing European nations’ reliance on significant amounts of Russian oil and gas. “Short of sanctimonious comments by Secretary of State Kerry and a few others, I’m not sure we’ll even get that far down the road. I’m really disheartened by this.”
Mr. Bucci also said Russian cyberattacks could be launched against U.S. or European targets as a result of economic sanctions or a severing of trade relationships.
Meanwhile, protesters in Kiev reportedly held signs asking for U.S. help in holding off Russian forces. A resolution that cleared the Russian legislature’s upper house over the weekend opens the way for military force “in the territory of Ukraine,” a sign Mr. Putin may move beyond Crimea.
“If he’s a Christian, if he demonstrates his Christianity, instead of preparing to kill us he should pray for us,” he said.
But with Ukrainians fearing for their lives, even the most hawkish American lawmakers don’t see military intervention as a viable option.
Instead, the White House and its international partners likely will pursue some combination of economic punishment and isolation.
“Russia believes there is nothing going to stop them, which is why they’ve become so aggressive in Crimea. There is not a lot of options on the table and, candidly, and I’m a fairly hawkish guy, sending more naval forces to operate in the Black Sea is not really a very good idea,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, speaking during an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “Unless you’re intending to use them, I wouldn’t send them. So now you’ve got only economic options through the EU. I would use those.”