Obama sticking to sanctions on Russia

President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThose on the front lines of climate change should be empowered to be central to its solution The Memo: Trump's justices look set to restrict abortion Minorities and women are leading the red wave MORE has decided not to provide military weapons to Ukraine for now, according to a top national security aide.

Instead, the administration will continue to pursue economic sanctions against Russia, which it believes are hurting Moscow’s economy, particularly with the fall in global oil prices.


“We still think that the best way to influence Russia's calculus is through those economic sanctions that are biting deep into the Russian economy,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN on Monday. “We are not going to bring the Ukrainian military into parity with Russia's military, certainly not in the near future.”

Rhodes did say the White House is “constantly looking at” whether to offer Kiev additional military equipment. 

The administration has “had a conversation” with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on “how we can strengthen and professionalize their security forces,” Rhodes said.

The White House is wary of injecting weapons into the crisis, however, and still prefers sanctions as the means of convincing Moscow to pull back support for separatist rebels in Ukraine.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that NATO’s military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove and departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel both supported providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainian military after pro-Russian separatists made a series of gains in recent weeks. The White House has, thus far, limited aid to nonlethal items like body armor, rations, blankets and medical kits.

Pressure to provide more support to Kiev has intensified after peace talks collapsed over the weekend in Minsk. Those talks followed some of the deadliest fighting since a cease-fire agreement was signed last September. 

Obama will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday at the White House, and the pair is expected to discuss their next steps in Ukraine. European leaders are expected to extend and expand sanctions against Moscow later this month.

Rhodes said Obama and Merkel would discuss the “range of options” at their disposal.