(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The white house said it needed concrete signs that russia would de-escalate the situation in eastern ukraine.
the united states warned on wednesday it was “actively preparing” new sanctions to hit russia if critical ukraine talks do not produce concessions from moscow.
us officials privately signaled they had little hope that the geneva talks between russia ukraine the european union and washington would make significant progress.
they also revealed that the toughest available sanctions — those targeting key sectors of the russian economy — would only come into force in the event of a full-scale russian invasion of ukraine.
president barack obama meanwhile specifically accused moscow of actively supporting separatist militias in southern and eastern ukraine — actions which prompted the government in kiev to send military forces into the area with so far limited effect.
as secretary of state john kerry flew to geneva the white house said it needed concrete signs that russia would de-escalate the situation in eastern ukraine.
“we are actively preparing new sanctions” white house spokesman jay carney said.
“we are also looking at tomorrow’s meeting for an indication that russia will or intends to pursue a path of de-escalation rather than escalation.”
a senior us official told reporters traveling with kerry that russia must show willingness to stop “aiding and abetting” separatists and pull back its troops on the ukrainian border.
“with regard to sanctions the president has been very clear: that if russia does not take this opportunity to de-escalate the costs are going up.”
but the immediate timing of any new toughened sanctions on russia beyond the current measures targeting senior officials in moscow and crimea was unclear.
“each time russia takes these kinds of steps that are designed to destabilise ukraine and violate their sovereignty there are going to be consequences” obama told cbs news.
senior us officials made clear that they see maximum impact in simultaneously imposing sanctions on russia with the european union which has much closer economic ties with moscow than the united states.
but speaking on condition of anonymity they acknowledged that it took time for the eu’s 28 members to move through the sanctions process.
they also made clear that the most painful sanctions that have so far been threatened — hits against sectors of russia’s economy including mining and energy — are not yet imminent.
washington sees those measures as the ultimate punishment for any move by russian forces into ukraine and believes it could quickly get europe to join in even though it would risk significant pain for its own economy.
an official said washington was now calibrating the cost president vladimir putin should pay for what it sees as the less clear cut scenario of pro-russian separatists igniting unrest in eastern ukraine.
the united states is considering requests by ukraine for non-lethal assistance of various kinds.
but officials made clear that arming the kiev government was not an option: firstly because no quick shipment of weapons could change the military balance in ukraine’s favor and also to avoid becoming embroiled in some kind of proxy conflict with moscow.
the united states has backed kiev’s right to quell separatist uprisings that started in the crimean peninsula and have since spread to other parts of ukraine setting the stage for the most serious rupture in west-russia relations since the end of the cold war.
putin has denied moscow has any links to separatist groups and an operation some see here as a bid to engineer a de-facto partition of ukraine.
but obama disagreed.
“what they have also done is support at a minimum non state militias in southern and eastern ukraine” obama said.
the us president also shrugged off an incident over the weekend in which a russian fighter aircraft made low passes near a us destroyer in the black sea.
“they are not interested in any kind of military confrontation with us” obama said arguing that us conventional forces were far superior to those of russia.
“we don’t need a war. what we do need is a recognition that countries like ukraine can have relationships with the whole region their neighbors and it is not up to anybody ... to make decisions for them.”
several us lawmakers will travel to ukraine monday in a show of support and to assess obama administration engagement there said the delegation’s leader house foreign affairs committee chairman ed royce.
“ukraine is in crisis and the us should do what we can to bolster its government against russian aggression” he said.
vice president joe biden is also traveling to kiev next week.
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