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Monday, March 3, 2014

U.S. tempers tough talk: Military force an unlikely option in Ukraine -- By Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times

Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Holguin at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, as Kerryopened a fourth round of the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Partnership Dialogue. Kerry said he had called Russia's foreign minister to express US concerns over military activity in Crimea that could further inflame tensions in Ukraine following the ouster of its Russian-backed president. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)As Russia ignores international warnings and mounts a full takeover of Ukraine's strategic region of Crimea, White House officials and U.S. lawmakers struggled Sunday with how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin's defiant aggression.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry promised serious repercussions for the violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, echoing President Obama's warning last week about the "costs" of military intervention.

Yet the U.S. appears to have few effective options to punish Russia for its actions, which Ukrainian officials consider to be "a declaration of war."

Mr. Kerry, who appeared on four Sunday political talk shows, stressed that all options are on the table, but it's clear military force is unlikely.

Instead, the U.S. and its allies are considering economic sanctions and a suspension of the nearly $40 billion-per-year U.S.-Russia trade relationship.

In another move of condemnation, the U.S. and its key allies — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain — have halted planning efforts for the June meeting of the Group of Eight, set for Sochi, Russia.

But those moves, if they come to fruition, may not sway Russia, some analysts say.

For Mr. Putin, who has invaded Ukraine under the auspices of protecting ethnic Russians and securing Russian military bases in the flashpoint region of Crimea, punishment from the international community may pale in comparison with the benefits of annexing key parts of Ukraine and expanding his influence across the old Soviet bloc.

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