U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that sanctions would have a broader effect as they are stepped up, which could lead to more questioning at home of President Vladimir V. Putin's policies, Censor.NET reports citing the article in The New York Times.
Nearly one week after a cease-fire was supposed to have gone into effect in Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry met with his British counterpart to discuss the imposition of additional sanctions because of what he called Russia's "brazen" violations of the agreement.
"We know to a certainty what Russia has been providing to the separatists," Mr. Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary. "We're not going to sit there and be part of this kind of extraordinarily craven behavior at the expense of the sovereignty and integrity of a nation."
After their meeting, Mr. Kerry told reporters that "more serious sanctions" were being weighed, and he added that he expected President Obama to make a decision on what steps to take in the next few days. Mr. Kerry did not provide any examples of what sanctions might be chosen or when they might take effect.
Mr. Kerry said the Obama administration had sought to target the sanctions it had already imposed so they would influence the Russian leadership without hurting the Russian public. But in a clear warning to the Kremlin, Mr. Kerry said that sanctions would have a broader effect as they are stepped up, which could lead to more questioning at home of President Vladimir V. Putin's policies.
"Increasingly there will be an inevitable broader impact as the sanctions ratchet up," he said. "I am confident that some additional steps will be taken in response to the breaches of this cease-fire and to the process that had been agreed upon in Minsk."
Washington has expressed alarm over the past week about Russia's role in supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Last week, the State Department said Russia was not only providing the separatists with weapons but also using its own forces to fire shells and rockets at Debaltseve, a strategically important town that Ukrainian troops were forced to abandon.
With Ukraine's loss of Debaltseve, there is growing concern in Western countries that Mariupol, a port city in eastern Ukraine, could be the separatists' next objective. Mr. Kerry echoed those concerns on Saturday, warning that Russia had been involved in "land grabbing."
The outrage in Western capitals, however, has yet to lead to a package of tough, new measures like economic sanctions or the shipment of defensive arms to the Ukrainian military. And it remains to be seen whether the United States and its allies can forge an effective response to Russia's support of the separatists.
Mr. Hammond, who in his public comments made no specific reference to sanctions, also condemned Russia's "continued aggression" while emphasizing the need to maintain the close "alignment" between European and American strategies on Ukraine.
Britain, France and Germany have been opposed to sending arms to Ukraine's forces, arguing that such a move would lead to an escalation of the fighting.
The Obama administration has been weighing whether to send defensive weapons to Ukraine. Proponents have argued that sending weapons to the Ukrainians would dissuade the Russians and the pro-Russian separatists from trying to take more territory.
But the White House has also allowed Germany and France to take the lead in the diplomacy with Russia over Ukraine. And the Obama administration's desire to close ranks with the Europeans, along with its cautious approach toward Russia, may be pushing the issue of arms to the back burner. While Mr. Kerry asserted that sending lethal weapons to Ukraine was still under discussion, he said nothing to indicate a decision on providing military support was imminent.