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Obama rules out military response

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday ruled out the possibility that the United States will take military action in Ukraine and said his team was still developing a strategy on how to tackle terrorists in Syria.

During a news conference, Obama said, “What we're doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia.”

Obama suggested that Washington might impose increased economic sanctions on Moscow, blaming it squarely for the trouble in eastern Ukraine. But he said a military confrontation between the United States and Russia “is not in the cards.”

Obama said he spoke by telephone with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has led diplomatic efforts to end the fighting between Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels.

“We agree, if there was ever any doubt, that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine,” Obama said.

The majority of the media briefing, however, focused on confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Obama said he has not decided on stepped-up military action against ISIS, cautioning that he remains committed to a strategy that protects U.S. interests and builds broader partnerships to combat the threat posed by the militant group.

“We don't have a strategy yet,” the president said, referring to possible airstrikes against terrorist positions in Syria. “The suggestion seems to have been we're about to go full-scale on some elaborate strategy for defeating (ISIS) and the suggestion has been we'll start moving forward imminently and somehow with Congress still out of town, they'll be left in the dark. That's not going to happen.”

Obama's critics said it was both shocking and concerning to hear the president equivocate. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the lack of urgency demonstrated that Obama doesn't understand the extent of the threat posed by ISIS.

“It just confirmed what we've been talking about really for almost two years: There has been no real strategy,” Rogers said.

Obama, who met with the National Security Council to discuss ISIS after the news conference, said he has consulted congressional leaders and will continue to do so as his administration considers the next steps. This week, he authorized military surveillance flights over Syria.

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