Relations on verge of big shift
WASHINGTON — Western powers on Sunday prepared a tough response to Russia's military advance into Ukraine and warned that Moscow could sustain economic penalties, diplomatic isolation and bolstered allied defenses in Europe unless it retreats.
The crisis might prove to be a game-changer for President Obama's national security policy, forcing him to give up his foreign policy shift to Asia and to maintain U.S. troop levels in Europe to limit Russia's reach.
The ill will and mistrust could spill over on two other global security fronts — Syria and Iran — where Russia has been a necessary partner with the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that he would heed the West's warnings.
Senior Obama administration officials said they believe Russia has complete operational control over Crimea and has more than 6,000 forces in the region. The United States is watching for ethnic skirmishes in other areas of eastern Ukraine, though the officials said they had yet seen Russian military moves elsewhere. The officials were not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Secretary of State John Kerry said he consulted with other world leaders, and “every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion.” Obama spoke on Sunday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.
Kerry planned to travel to Kiev on Tuesday for meetings with the Ukrainian government. Officials said the Obama administration will focus this week on putting together a package of economic assistance for Ukraine.
In Brussels, NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia's actions have violated a U.N. charter. He said the alliance is re-evaluating its relationship with Russia.
“There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this,” Kerry said.
Beyond economic sanctions, visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight group of world powers as payback for the military incursion.
Several senators called for bolstered missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Russia is “going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term,” said Kerry. “The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight.”
At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday midday appearance in St. Peter's Square to urge world leaders to promote dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discussing the potential of U.S. military strikes against Russian troops in Crimea, said, “I don't think anyone is advocating for that.” One of the administration officials indicated that the U.S. was not weighing military action to counter Russia's advances.
Rubio said it would be difficult to rein in Moscow.
As a starter, Rubio and fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the Obama administration should return to plans it abandoned in 2009 to place long-range missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.