Kerry threatens sanctions if Russia doesn’t withdraw from Ukraine


WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John F. Kerry, denouncing what he called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “incredible act of aggression,” said the United States is considering an array of economic sanctions to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to change course or to punish him if he refuses.

The decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops to Crimea, a region of Ukraine, “is really a stunning willful choice by president Putin to invade another country,” said Kerry, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” one of several Sunday morning public affairs shows on which he appeared.

Kerry and Republican members of Congress made clear the U.S. was not considering a military move to counter Putin’s action. On ABC’s “This Week” program Kerry said that “the hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation.”


“Nobody wants this to spiral in a bad or a worse direction,” he said.

“The invasion of Crimea has already happened,” Kerry said. “And we believe that President Putin should make the decision to roll it back.”

He also appeared to concede that Russian forces would be able to establish control of at least that portion of Ukrainian territory. But, he said, in the long run, Russia would suffer economic and diplomatic isolation as a result.

“You know, he may be able to have his troops for some period of time in Crimea,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But “the fact is he’s going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose.”

“He’s going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60-billion extravaganza,” Kerry added. “He may find himself with asset freezes on Russian business. American business may pull back. There may be a further tumble of the ruble. There’s a huge price to pay.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that Russia could be sparking a “very dangerous situation” if it continues its incursion into Ukrainian territory. “This is a time for careful, wise, steady leadership,” he said on “Face the Nation.”

“We have many options, like nations do. We’re trying to deal with the diplomatic focus.”

Yuriy Sergeyev, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N., said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Ukrainians are “preparing to defend ourselves” and called for military backing from the West. “When the Russian troops ... are enlarging their quantity with every coming hour, naturally we will ask for military support and other kinds of support.”

Kerry said the Obama administration would ask Congress to begin work on an economic aid package for Ukraine that would seek to stabilize that country’s new, pro-western government. After years of economic mismanagement and corruption, Ukraine is near bankruptcy, officials there have said.

Over the past several days, Russian troops in unmarked uniforms have taken control of military installations and occupied cities in Crimea, a peninsula jutting into the Black Sea, in southern Ukraine, where much of the population identifies with Russia. Kerry’s remarks came after President Obama had a tense 90-minute conversation with Putin on Saturday. The White House said Obama expressed disapproval of a “breach of international law.”

Republicans said that Putin’s willingness to ignore U.S. warnings illustrated the weakness in President Obama’s approach to foreign policy. But they largely backed the policy Kerry had outlined.

“I don’t think anyone is advocating for” military action, Sen. Marco Rubio said on “Face the Nation.” He called for the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.) chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, assailed Obama for what he said was a weak and naïve approach in dealing with the Russian president.

“Putin is playing chess and I think we are playing marbles, and I don’t think it’s even close,” he said on Fox News Sunday. At the same time, Rogers also said the U.S. wasn’t likely to force a military confrontation.

“There is not a lot of options on the table and candidly, I’m a fairly hawkish guy, sending more naval forces to operate in the Black Sea is really not a very good idea, given that we know that that day has long passed,” he said. “And unless you’re intending to use them, I wouldn’t send them.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), speaking on CNN, said, “We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”

“President Obama needs to do something,” he said. “How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G-8, in the G-20, at least for a year, starting right now, and for every day they stay in the Crimea, add to the suspension.”

Kerry said the U.S. was considering a boycott of the upcoming meeting of Group of nations in Sochi, site of the Winter Olympics, where Putin invested billions in an attempt to convince the world that Russia was a thriving modern economic power.

The Crimean intervention, by harking back to Russia’s aggressive history, erased those public relations efforts, Kerry suggested.

“It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century, and it really puts at question Russia’s capacity to be within the G-8,” he said.

joseph.tanfani@latimes.comTwitter: @JTanfani