President Barack Obama said the United States and its allies have agreed that Russia violated international law by launching an incursion into Ukraine this weekend.
Obama said that the United States would examine steps to "isolate Russia" should the Vladimir Putin-led government continue its incursion into Crimea, a territory with Ukraine's sovereign borders.
"I spent the weekend talking to leaders across Europe, and I think the world is largely united in recognizing that the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, their territorial integrity — that they're a violation of international law, they're a violation of previous agreements Russia has made with regard to how it treats and respects its neighbors," Obama said Monday at the White House.
After huddling with Western allies over the weekend and speaking with Putin for 90 minutes on Saturday, Obama asserted that Russia is on the wrong side of history and should prepare to endure an array of consequences should it refuse to reverse course.
"But what cannot be done is for Russia, with impunity, to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles that are recognized around the world," Obama said. "And I think the strong condemnation it's received from countries around the world indicates the degree to which Russia's on the wrong side of history in this."
The consequences could vary from economic sanctions to restrictions on travel for Russian officials. The United States has said that it is eyeing a variety of options to punish Russia as a result of the incursion into Crimea after Obama warned Putin on Friday not to proceed with military action.
"What we are also indicating to the Russians is, if, in fact, they continue on trajectory that they're on, that we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia. and will have a negative impact on Russia's economy and its status in the world," the president said.
Obama said he expected Secretary of State John Kerry would further communicate that message when he travels on Tuesday to Kiev. The United States and its allies have already suspended preparatory meetings for the upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia. The U.S. also declined to send a delegation to the impending Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.Obama's comments came before a meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visits the United States this week.
As Obama endures pressure from Congress to act forcefully in response to Russia's actions, he urged lawmakers to adopt an assistance package to the Ukranian government as a first order of business once lawmakers reconvene after weather cancelled official business on Monday.
"I've heard a lot of talk from Congress about what should be done, what they want to do. One thing they can do right away is work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to Ukraine, to the people, to the government," Obama said. "At this stage, there should be unanimity among Democrats and Republicans … We should be able to come up with a unified position that stands outside of partisan politics. My expectation is that I'll be able to able to get Congress to work with us in order to be able to achieve that goal."
First published March 3 2014, 11:34 AM