Obama national security aides meet to discuss Ukraine

WASHINGTON Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:27pm EDT

Ukrainian soldiers ride on military armoured personnel carriers as they take part in a military exercise near Kharkiv March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Ukrainian soldiers ride on military armoured personnel carriers as they take part in a military exercise near Kharkiv March 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's national security team discussed the Ukraine crisis in a session at the White House on Saturday after a last-ditch bid to find a diplomatic solution to the Cold War-style standoff with Russia floundered.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who just returned from talks with his Russian counterpart in London, was at the White House meeting along with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Obama did not attend the meeting but was being briefed about it and other developments involving Ukraine, said Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.

Crimea's pro-Russia parliament has scheduled a referendum on Sunday to decide whether the region should be annexed by Russia, an ominous development that Obama and his national security team have been trying to head off to no avail.

Obama said on Friday he still hopes a diplomatic solution can be found but that the United States and Europe are prepared to impose "consequences" on Russia if it does not loosen its grip on Crimea.

White House deliberations took on a new urgency as Ukraine's military scrambled aircraft and paratroops to confront Russian troops landing on a remote spit of land between Crimea and the mainland.

The Russian move prompted some members of the U.S. Congress to express alarm.

"Russia using provocateurs to provoke violence attacks inside Ukraine to create excuse for invasion of Eastern Ukraine," Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio said in a Tweet.

Representative Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican who chairs the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said the fresh Russian move was a deliberate violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and "clearly shows that Russia is an aggressor state."

Kerry held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in London on Friday but they reached no breakthrough in the worst East-West dispute in decades.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kerry presented Lavrov with a number of concrete proposals to defuse tensions and address concerns by Moscow over security and protection of minorities within a united Ukraine.

The talks hit a wall early on when it became clear that Lavrov was not authorized by the Kremlin to discuss any proposal that might impact Crimea before the referendum, the official said.

Washington has said it will be ready to move on Monday to impose visa bans and asset freezes, involving Ukrainian and Russian officials, if the referendum goes ahead and it leads to the annexation of Crimea. The European Union and other Western powers have said they will match U.S. sanctions.

Vice President Joe Biden leaves on Monday on a visit to NATO allies Poland and Lithuania to show support for key partners in the region. In Vilnius he will meet the presidents of all three Baltic nations, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

(Reporting By Steve Holland, Lesley Wroughton and Phil Stewart; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (18)
lkofenglish wrote:
Diplomacy? Lavrov has no credibility left so obviously he’ll just be touring State Capitols now waving to whoever happens to be standing around at the tarmac.

The problem of course is that not only does the USA have Treaty obligations that over ride “negotiations” but as well the Secretary of State has personally gone to Kiev to recognize “the fallen” and the President has met with the legitimate Government of Ukraine.

This sounds to me like “once the first APC gets taken out the USA and Russia will be at war.”

Just in time for the Sunday talk shows?
It’s already too late for the USA to “call up the reserves” is it not?

Mar 15, 2014 7:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
this means, they all smiled and congratulated each other, in getting Putinism to pause, attacking the rest of the Ukraine…Obama and his maladministration, is at a total loss, to any foreign policies, except smiling, before the cameras and in some cases, just plain lying…If, the Ukrainian people,e depend on their freedom, from the USA..all is lost…but, if they need some public speaking lessons, Obama is your professor…he sure isn’t presidential at all…

Mar 15, 2014 8:11pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
In other words- turn around isn’t fair play?

And WWIII starts like WWI but with a chunk of territory involved. There might not be an Internet much longer?

Windows 8 stinks anyway and all the developed countries would as soon burn their books as try to balance them. They can’t anymore.

Mar 15, 2014 8:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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