Two weeks ago, President Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia would face “additional costs” if it didn’t stop fanning the separatist fire in eastern Ukraine.
Then on Friday, Russia sent tanks, rocket launchers, and other weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine, according to the State Department. The day after, Russian-backed militants shot down a Ukrainian military plane, killing the 49 people aboard — the deadliest event since unrest began February.
And on Monday, Russia cut off its gas supply to Ukraine.
The Ukraine crisis has quickly escalated in a matter of days — yet again. But whether the recent events are enough for more U.S. action against Russian provocation in the coming weeks remains unclear.
A National Security Council spokeswoman said Monday that the U.S. continues to urge Russia to pull its support from separatist groups and stop the flow of arms across the border. For now, it looks as if the Obama administration is sticking to its usual tactic in this crisis — playing the wait-and-see game as Putin makes promises to disengage from the region.
“The mere fact that some of the Russian soldiers have moved back from the border and that Russia is now destabilizing Ukraine through surrogates, rather than overtly and explicitly, does not mean that we can afford three months, or four months, or six months, of continued violence and conflict in eastern Ukraine,” Obama said during the G-7 summit at the beginning of this month.
But talk of sanctions is especially unlikely to come in the immediate weeks. All eyes are on the deteriorating situation in Iraq right now, a reality that buys Russia time. With the administration distracted by events in the Middle East, Putin may be thinking he has additional wiggle room for more meddling in Ukraine.