US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned Moscow's
moves on Ukraine. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
The United States brandished the threat of economic
sanctions on Russia today, with Secretary of State John Kerry
calling Moscow's moves on Ukraine an "incredible act of
As Washington's already strained relations with Moscow
deteriorated further, Kerry was scathing in his condemnation
and said the United States has "all options on the table"
including a military response.
But, doing the rounds of Sunday morning television news shows
to stress US disapproval of Russia's actions, Kerry
emphasised Washington's desire for a peaceful resolution and
analysts saw little chance of a US military response.
Ignoring warnings from President Barack Obama and other
Western leaders, President Vladimir Putin won permission from
his parliament on Saturday to use military force. The stated
purpose was to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine following
the ousting of the country's Russian-backed president a week
Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea - an
isolated Black Sea peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority
and where Moscow has a naval base.
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century
fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up
pretext," Kerry told the CBS programme "Face the Nation."
Kerry spoke of "very serious repercussions" for Moscow and
said G8 nations and some other countries are "prepared to go
to the hilt to isolate Russia" with an array of options
"They're prepared to put sanctions in place, they're prepared
to isolate Russia economically, the ruble is already going
down. Russia has major economic challenges," he said.
Kerry listed visa bans, asset freezes, trade isolation, and
investment changes as possible steps, adding: "American
businesses may well want to start thinking twice about
whether they want to do business with a country that behaves
Analysts said US economic sanctions would likely have little
impact on Russia unless they were accompanied by strong
measures by major European nations, which have deeper trade
ties with Moscow and are dependent on Russian gas.
"What the United States itself can do is relatively limited,"
said Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine who is
now at Washington's Brookings Institution think tank. "The
question is can you get the Europeans on board."
A US official said economic sanctions would be imposed only
if Russia continued to take "aggressive steps."
"It's not that there is an active plan at this moment about
(imposing) sanctions on the Russians," said the official,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is a range of
options we will consider if their behavior continues down
Asked what those options were, the official replied: "we're
not there yet."
Obama, who on Friday evening publicly warned Putin that there
would be "costs" for any military intervention in Ukraine,
planned to consult US "partners and allies" by telephone on
Sunday, the White House said.
The US president also spent 90 minutes on the telephone with
the Russian leader on Saturday. Kerry said Obama told Putin
"that it was imperative to find a different path, to roll
back this invasion and un-do this act of invasion."
Obama faced criticism at home from Republican lawmakers who
called his response so far weak.
"Every time the president goes on national television and
threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody's eyes roll,
including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that
invites aggression," Senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent Obama
critic, told the CNN program "State of the Union."
Mike Rogers, chairman of the US House of Representatives
Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that "I
think Putin is playing chess and I think we're playing
"And I don't think it's even close," Rogers added.
Ukraine has mobilised for war fter Putin asserted the right
to invade Russia's neighbour. The crisis is the most
significant showdown with the West since the end of the Cold
War a quarter century ago.
"It's an incredible act of aggression. It is really a
stunning, willful choice by President Putin to invade another
country. Russia is in violation of the sovereignty of
Ukraine," Kerry said.
The United States and allies including Britain and France
have already take a step to isolate Russia, announcing they
are suspending taking part in preparations for a June G8
meeting in Sochi, Russia, which hosted last month's Winter
Kerry said the United States is "absolutely prepared" to
boycott the Sochi summit. He said recent events "put at
question Russia's capacity to be within the G8," the group of
major industrialised nations that Russia joined in 1998.
"If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like
a G8 country," he added.