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US prepares tough response for Russia over Ukraine

By Lara Jakes

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, March 2 2014 3:10 p.m. MST

Ukraine's Ambassador to NATO Ihor Dolhov adjusts the microphones prior to speaking during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Sunday, March 2, 2014. NATO is called emergency talks on Sunday regarding the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Virginia Mayo, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

WASHINGTON — Western powers on Sunday prepared a tough response to Russia's military advance into Ukraine and warned that Moscow could face economic penalties, diplomatic isolation and bolstered allied defenses in Europe unless it retreated.

The crisis may prove to be a game-changer for President Barack Obama's national security policy, forcing him to give up his foreign policy shift to Asia and to maintain U.S. troop levels in Europe to limit Russia's reach.

The ill will and mistrust also could spill over on two other global security fronts — Syria and Iran — where Russia has been a necessary partner with the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that would heed the West's warnings. Hundreds of armed men surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea. In Kiev, Ukraine's capital, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk alerted allies that "we are on the brink of disaster."

Secretary of State John Kerry said he has consulted with other world leaders and "every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia with respect to this invasion."

He was considering a stop in Kiev during his trip this coming week to Paris and Rome for discussions on Lebanon and Syria.

In Brussels, NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia's actions have violated a U.N. charter. He said the alliance was re-evaluating its relationship with Russia.

"There are very serious repercussions that can flow out of this," Kerry said.

Beyond economic sanctions and visa bans, freezing Russian assets, and trade and investment penalties, Kerry said Moscow risks being booted out of the powerful Group of Eight group of world powers as payback for the military incursion.

Several senators also called for bolstered missile defense systems based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia is "going to be inviting major difficulties for the long term," said Kerry. "The people of Ukraine will not sit still for this. They know how to fight."

Still, it was clear that few, if anyone, in the West were immediately prepared to respond to Putin with military force.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis used his traditional Sunday midday appearance in St. Peter's Square to urge world leaders to promote dialogue as a way of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., discussing the potential of U.S. military strikes against Russian troops in Crimea, said, "I don't think anyone is advocating for that."

Rubio said it would be difficult to rein in Moscow. He said Putin has "made a cost-benefit analysis. He has weighed the costs of doing what he's done, and ... clearly he has concluded that the benefits far outweigh the costs. We need to endeavor to change that calculus."

As a starter, Rubio and fellow GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the Obama administration should return to plans it abandoned in 2009 to place long-range missile interceptors and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia believed the program was aimed at countering its own missiles and undermining its nuclear deterrent. The White House denied that, and has worked instead to place medium-range interceptors in Poland and Romania — aimed at stopping missiles from Iran and North Korea.

Experts said potential U.S. budget cuts to Army units based in Germany also could be slowed, or scrapped completely, to prevent a catastrophic erosion of stability and democracy from creeping across Europe.

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