President Obama announced Tuesday that the U.S. is once again moving to impose fresh sanctions on Russia as a consequence for its continued support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The new sanctions, which target the defense, energy and financial sectors of the Russian economy, will have an "even bigger bite" than those imposed in the past, Mr. Obama said, because the U.S. is being joined by its European allies who had, until now, resisted widening their own sanctions. But, he said, it is "not a new Cold War" with the nation's one-time archrival.
"The major sanctions we're announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia," Mr. Obama said at the White House. "Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress. And it doesn't have to come to this. It didn't have to come to this. It does not have to be this way. This is a choice that Russia, and President [Vladimir] Putin in particular has made."
He urged Russia to choose a different path, one of "de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation, a choice in which Russia recognizes that it can be a good neighbor and trading partner with Ukraine."
Asked whether the U.S. engaged in a new Cold War with Russia, however, Mr. Obama said it was not.
"What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia's unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path," he said. He emphasized that the Ukrainians have said they seek good relations with Russia but cannot accept its move to arm separatists who are "carrying out terribly destructive activities inside of Ukraine" and undermining the government.
The sooner Putin recognizes that Ukraine will not become a vassal state, Mr. Obama said, "the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that doesn't result in a tragic loss of life."
One day before the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Mr. Obama moved to deepen U.S. sanctions against Russia to include key sectors of the economy, including the defense industry. At the time, officials in Europe, whose economies are much more closely tied to Russia's, were still unsure of their next step.
But European Union diplomats now say they plan to adopt their own new tough economic sanctions aimed at shutting out state-owned Russian banks from European capital markets. They will also target the oil sector, but not the gas sector on which they are heavily dependant for energy.
Mr. Obama has pressed European leaders for more sanctions that could compel Russia to use its influence with rebels in eastern Ukraine to end the fighting. He convened a videoconference call with the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy and France Monday in which the four European nations said they were willing to move forward.
In a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia's actions "have not shown a shred of evidence that they really have a legitimate desire to end the violence and end the bloodshed," as they say they do.
Kerry and Obama also condemned Russia and the separatists for failing to cooperate with the international investigation into the Malaysia Airlines flight, including blocking access to the wreckage and tampering with evidence.
The additional sanctions are coming down as the U.S. accuses Russia of increasing its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to the pro-Moscow rebels. The U.S. also believes that Russia has fired on Ukraine in recent days as fighting increases around wreckage of the Malaysia airlines plane.
But Russia - which denies supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine - says it is undeterred by the sanctions.
"I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Moscow, according to the Reuters news agency.