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US, Europeans try to rally Western Front vs Russia

The World Reacts To Russia Invasion Of Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S and major allies strained on Monday to rally a strong Western front to persuade Russia to step back from a military takeover of Ukraine's strategic Crimea region. But several acknowledged there are few options beyond already-threatened economic and diplomatic penalties, and critics said administration efforts were too little, too late after years of pressing for friendlier relations with Moscow.

A stern-faced President Barack Obama labeled the Russian advance in Crimea a violation of international law. He urged Congress to approve an aid package for the Ukrainian government, and repeated earlier threats that the U.S. would take steps to hobble Russia's economy and isolate it diplomatically if President Vladimir Putin does not back down.

The Pentagon announced late Monday it was suspending engagements with the Russian military, and a senior U.S. official said the U.S. would not move forward with meetings designed to deepen the trade relationship between the two countries. Lacking authorization to speak publicly about the trade meetings, the official requested anonymity.

Obama met Monday evening with his national security team, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to discuss Ukraine. Hours later Kerry was to leave for Kiev to reinforce U.S. support for the new Ukrainian government that only weeks ago ousted its pro-Russian president.

But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Russia's control of Crimea would not be easy to reverse. And the suggestions he offered - sending in observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation, questioning Russia's membership in the G-8 economic group and holding out for a diplomatic dialogue proposed by Germany - were an indication of how limited the options were for the U.S. and Europe.

Still, alternately threatening and cajoling Putin, Western leaders pointed to the damage that his nation's natural gas, uranium and coal industries could suffer if sanctions cut off exports to the European Union, its largest customer.

Britain's prime minister warned of diplomatic, political, economic "and other pressures" that could be brought against Moscow. And the European Union's foreign ministers issued a Thursday deadline for Putin to pull back his troops or face a rejection of visa-liberalization and economic cooperation negotiations that have long been in the works.

"I think the situation is relatively clear, you need to see a return to barracks," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in Brussels, where ministers also froze preparations for the Group of Eight summit of major economies that is set for June in Sochi.

In Washington, Obama declared, "The strong condemnation that has proceeded from countries around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is on the wrong side of history."

"So there are really two paths that Russia can take at this point," Obama said. "Over time, this will be a costly proposition for Russia, and now is the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force."

The White House said Obama met for more than two hours Monday night with the National Security Council and the other cabinet members, discussing what steps the United States can take with international partners to further isolate Russia and persuade them to de-escalate the situation.

The Pentagon announced late Monday it was suspending military-to-military engagements with Russia, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and conferences. But the West stopped far short of suggesting that its own military force might be used to push Putin's troops out of Crimea - even as Ukrainian officials reported that four Russian navy ships in Sevastopol's harbor had blocked two vessels controlled by Kiev.

Russia, too, tried to steer the world debate.

At a U.N. session in Geneva, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Ukraine should return to a Feb. 21 agreement that sought to end months of unrest in Kiev by addressing an array of issues at the heart of the dispute between protesters and the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. However, that agreement did not address the grievances that caused the protests in the first place, and the pro-Russian Yanukovych fled Kiev for protective sanctuary near Moscow within days of signing it.

"Instead of a promised national unity government," Lavrov complained, "a `government of the victors' has been created."

U.S. officials say the Feb. 21 agreement could form the basis for a political resolution to the crisis but would have to be significantly altered.

Both Kerry and Lavrov are to attend meetings in Paris on Wednesday about refugee spillover in Lebanon from the other war on a NATO border - the three-year bloody conflict in Syria. It is likely they will discuss the crisis in Ukraine, too.

Some critics said the Obama administration should have seen Russia's advances coming and blamed the White House for policies emboldening Putin.

Said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was defeated by Obama in the 2008 presidential election: "The president of the United States thinks that the Cold War is over. That's fine. It is over. But Putin doesn't believe it's over."

Obama for years tried to cultivate Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the former president, as a friend of the United States. Significant changes were made to Bush administration plans for a European missile defense to try to ease Russian concerns, and a new arms control treaty was signed, as part of Washington's hopes to "reset" U.S.-Russia relations.

Conservative foreign policy experts in the U.S. said Monday that the reset has long since crashed and burned.

"When you implement a policy of appeasement toward Moscow, that policy is going to spectacularly backfire," said scholar Nile Gardiner of the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We've seen that with regards to Crimea and Ukraine."

American Enterprise Institute security expert Gary Schmitt outlined a number of steps that he said the West should embrace to pressure Putin. Among them, he said, is the buildup of NATO forces in neighboring nations to make clear to Russia that there is a line it cannot cross in Europe. He also said Navy ships and assets should be moved to the Mediterranean Sea, and possibly the Black Sea, "to remind Russia there is a military cost for its activities."

He noted that Russia paid little for invading Georgia in 2008.

Georgia's prime minister met with U.S. officials last week in Washington, and Kerry on Monday pledged a fresh $2.8 million to Moldova to help that nation's economic prospects. All told, Kerry said the U.S. has provided close to $1.5 billion in economic assistance to help Moldova, which, like Georgia, is a former Soviet republic that has rejected Russia in recent years in favor of Western inclusion.

"So what happens today in Ukraine is just a reminder to us ... that we need to do much more in order to address this issue," Moldova Prime Minister Iurie Leanca said Monday at a State Department meeting with Kerry. "Because if it's not addressed in time, then it becomes very contagious."

---

Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Nedra Pickler, Josh Lederman, Deb Riechmann, Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington and Juergen Baetz in Brussels contributed to this report.

Follow Lara Jakes on Twitter at: HTTPS://TWITTER.COM/LARAJAKESAP

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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frank.foreman March 04 2014 at 2:24 AM

Need the video of Putin waltzing the culprits who created fake bank accounts , which were found to be receiving fake deposits (to create an unlimited bank account) visa vee = ENRON out the door because they were being threatened by the immediate public? Do we also have to rerun the news report that specified exactly who they all were , and that many American government officials (politicians) were involved - and that the Enron scandal (including this unattainable & unlimited bank account) was all planned by a handful of high ranking employees of the bank?

And then .... 911 occurred early in the morning of September 11 , 2001. Next Russian scam please , next , "let's move along".

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fishhead80 March 04 2014 at 6:06 AM

Will you just shut up please Obama. You're just a con man liar and an opportunist looking for every photo op that can help your toilet level ratings as more & more Americans see what you are doing to our Nation with your radical BS. Just go away and take your big a$$ wife with you.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
palitzca March 04 2014 at 1:20 AM

i thought rushia agree never again at end of world war two

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
FRANK A palitzca March 04 2014 at 1:36 AM

they did

Flag Reply +1 rate up
joeljoey5160 March 04 2014 at 6:03 AM

Obamas legacy will be destroying the lower middle class.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
jplita March 04 2014 at 5:48 AM

I do not understand how you can have a vote in the UN and Russia can veto it and they are the one do the advancing ???This is a conflict of intrest... The whole thing is set up wrong....

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punnster March 04 2014 at 1:29 AM

Consider our past history and learn from those mistakes of delay, rosy optimism and denial. Remember World War I, World War II, Korea, Bosnia and Syria. Remember the concessions at Yalta? Remember those administrations? They keep making the same mistakes.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
a502cc March 04 2014 at 1:32 AM

I seem to remember Obama asking the President of Russia for more SPACE when he thought the mike was off. The President of Russia said he would relate that to Valdimer Putin. Well he got his space now what.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
circlebprod March 04 2014 at 5:17 AM

I got a good idea, why don't we mind our own business

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
cmorse1052 March 04 2014 at 5:16 AM

Not to mention few stories are talking about the Chinese deploying missiles capable of hitting Guam. We're in deep doo-doo folks. While we're shrinking our military our enemies are growing theirs on our dime.

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1 reply
donrahilly cmorse1052 March 04 2014 at 5:46 AM

I don't know that I would include China in an "enemies list". We owe them too much money.

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palitzca March 04 2014 at 1:15 AM

ukrain should not be ivaded it like hitler in ww2 inade poland we need to stop this bad behavier and get forward rushia need to join eroupe that it

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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