Politics

Obama's Options Limited And Unlikely to Change Putin's Course In Ukraine

| by Jared Keever

Three days ago, President Barack Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that “there will be costs” if Russia were to decide to intervene militarily in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Putin ignored that threat and sent troops anyway. The Obama administration estimates that there are currently about 6,000 Russian troops on the ground in Crimea, the Russian-sympathizing peninsular region in eastern Ukraine.

What is left for Obama now is to begin doling out those consequences, and the administration began to do so late Monday night, according to a Fox News story. The United States announced that it was suspending trade and investment talks with Russia, as well as all “military-to-military engagements.” The measures are intended to be penalties for Putin’s refusal to heed U.S. warnings about actions in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative told Fox News that trade talks had been suspended.

"Due to recent events in Ukraine, we have suspended upcoming bilateral trade and investment engagement with the government of Russia that were part of a move toward deeper commercial and trade ties,” the spokesperson for the office is quoted as saying.

Many experts believe that such moves by the Obama administration won’t do much to convince Russia to change its course. "None of those (options) are, I think, sufficiently potent to get Putin out," said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

"The ability of the United States acting in coordination with its allies … has limited reach, limited leverage in reversing what has happened in the last few days,” he said in a story in USA Today.

Further limiting Obama’s options for a stronger response could be the recognized need for Russia’s help on a variety of other issues. Angela Stent, director of the Center of Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, has a list of international items that require Russian support in order for them to be dealt with effectively.

"If the administration wants to get a deal done on Iran, they need Russian cooperation,” she said. "On Syria, we disagree with the Russians on the civil war part of it, but certainly we have worked with them on the chemical weapons disarmament. On Afghanistan, post-2014 and generally in the Middle East, there are countervailing pressures there.” Obama, though, is not completely focused on Russia. In response to Republican critics in Congress, who think the president is not being tough enough with Russia, Obama told them to get busy passing an aid package to stabilize Ukraine’s economy during the crisis. 

"I've heard a lot of talk from Congress about what should be done, what they want to do," Obama said. "One thing they can do right away is to work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to the Ukrainians, to the people and that government."

Sources: Fox News, USA Today