March 03, 2014, 01:43 pm
Obama administration preparing sanctions vs. Russia
By Julian Pecquet
The Obama administration is preparing sanctions to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine and is “likely” to impose them, the State Department declared Monday.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that planning for sanctions has gone into overdrive following stepped up Russian interference in the Crimea region, including unconfirmed reports that Russia has given Ukrainian troops in the Crimea until 10 p.m. EST to surrender.
“At this point we're not just considering sanctions; given the actions Russia has taken it is likely that we will put those in place," Psaki said. "And we are preparing that right now.”
Psaki did not give any details on what sanctions the administration might impose, but Secretary of State John Kerry has said the U.S. could ban visas and freeze the assets of Russian officials.
Psaki said she could not confirm reports that Russian military forces have given Ukrainian troops an ultimatum to leave their Crimean base, but said that if true it would represent a “dangerous escalation for which we would hold Russia directly responsible.”
“We can all see the steps that they've taken on the ground, which have raised concerns, and that's why we're proceeding down this path,” she said.
She said Russia can still take steps to defuse the crisis.
“There is an alternative path, and Russia does not need to proceed on this path,” she said. “They can engage directly with Ukraine, withdraw troops back to bases, refrain from interference elsewhere – that's a path they can take.”
The Obama administration has all but ruled out military action against Russia, but Psaki said the U.S. believes political and economic pressure can force the Kremlin to back off.
“They've invested upwards of $50 billion in the Olympics. The view of the world of Russia matters to them. They've taken steps to rebuild their reputation, to engage with the West,” Psaki said. “And that's one of the reasons we believe political steps, and sending a political message in coordination with the international community, will be effective in cooperation and in partnership with economic steps.”