Obama to consult Europe on additional Russian sanctions

President Obama said he planned to speak Friday with “key European leaders” about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, with an eye on moving forward with additional targeted sanctions against Moscow after Russia.

“We already have a series of additional targeted sanctions that are ready to go and we want to make sure we are consulting with them,” Obama said at a news conference in South Korea.

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Obama said that he would also use the conversations to lay the groundwork “so if and when we see even greater escalation” from Russia — including the possibility of a “military incursion” — the U.S. and Europe would be prepared to move ahead with broader sectoral sanctions.

“We want to work with them to make sure we’re coordinating as much as possible, because that’s going to maximize our efforts,” Obama said.

Obama again expressed disappointment with Moscow’s actions after foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and European Union brokered a deal last week in Geneva intended to deescalate the crisis there.

“What you’ve seen is the government in Kiev doing what it said it would do,” Obama said. “What we have not seen is Russia speaking out clearly, condemning the pro-Russian militias.”

But the president suggested that the next step taken by the U.S. would not be sectoral sanctions that could have a devastating effect on the stagnant Russian economy. 

“We’ll continue to keep some arrows in our quiver in the event we see a further deterioration,” Obama said.

Obama also acknowledged that it was “self-apparent” that sanctions might now keep Russia from undertaking destabilizing activities in the region.

“There are no guarantees in life, generally, and certainly no guarantees in foreign policy,” Obama said.

But the president pushed back at the suggestion that there were a clear solution that would protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and said the past decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan should underscore that even the use of military force led to uncertain outcomes.

But Obama said world leaders “shouldn’t make the choice easy” for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The president’s comments came as Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accused the West of attempting to exert control over Ukraine for its own interests.

"The West wants — and this is how it all began — to seize control of Ukraine because of their own political ambitions, not in the interests of the Ukrainian people," Lavrov said, according to the Associated Press.

Lavrov also said that militants in the eastern regions of Ukraine would only lay down their arms and vacate buildings “if Kiev authorities get down to implementing the Geneva accords, clear out that shameful Maidan and liberate the buildings that have been illegally seized.”

 

Meanwhile, conditions on the ground in Ukraine continued to deteriorate. According to multiple media reports, at least seven people were injured Friday when a man threw a grenade at a checkpoint established by pro-Ukraine activists in Odessa. And Russian ground and air forces began a new round of training exercises across the border from Ukraine, intensifying fears of an invasion.