Kerry to visit Ukraine, military options not US focus
WASHINGTON - Reuters
A man holds a sign during a protest march in support of peace in Ukraine in Times Square in New York, March 2. REUTERS photoThe United States on March 2 said it will send its top diplomat to Kiev in a show of support and threatened economic sanctions against Russia but made clear it is not seriously considering military action over Ukraine.
The Obama administration sought to devise a diplomatic and economic strategy to reverse Russia's bloodless seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region and to dissuade Moscow from sending its forces further into the territory of its neighbor.
In a series of public statements and private conversations with reporters, however, U.S. officials made it abundantly clear that their desire was to get Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back without themselves getting into an armed confrontation.
"Right now, I think we are focused on political, diplomatic and economic options," a senior U.S. official told reporters.
"Frankly our goal is to uphold the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, not to have a military escalation," he added. "I don't think we're focused right now on the notion of some U.S. military intervention. I don't think that necessarily would be a way to de-escalate the situation."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Kiev on Tuesday to show "strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation," the State Department said in a statement.
Earlier, Kerry brandished the threat of economic sanctions on Russia, calling Moscow's moves on Ukraine an "incredible act of aggression" and saying that "all options are on the table," diplomatic code for the possibility of military action.
But, doing the rounds of morning television news shows to stress U.S. disapproval of Russia's actions, Kerry emphasized Washington's desire for a peaceful resolution and analysts saw little chance of a U.S. military response.
'19th century behavior'
Ignoring warnings from President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, Putin won permission from his parliament on March 1 to use military force in Ukraine. The stated purpose was to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine following the ouster of the country's Russian-backed president a week ago.
Putin got the green light from parliament after Russian forces had already gained control of Crimea, an isolated Black Sea peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority and where Moscow has long had a naval base.
"You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext," Kerry told the CBS program "Face the Nation."
Kerry spoke of "very serious repercussions" for Moscow and said G8 nations and some other countries are "prepared to go to the hilt to isolate Russia" with an array of options available.
Kerry listed visa bans, asset freezes, trade isolation, and investment changes as possible steps, adding: "American businesses may well want to start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this."
Ukraine mobilized for war on March 3 after Putin asserted the right to invade Russia's neighbor. The crisis is the most significant showdown with the West since the end of the Cold War a quarter century ago.