(CNSNews.com) – Amid international expressions of outrage over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, President Obama at a press conference Thursday did not answer a question on providing arms to the Ukrainians, and the State Department confirmed that current policy was to provide Kiev with “non-lethal” assistance only.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told the U.N. Security Council – meeting in emergency session in response to Ukraine’s claims of a Russian invasion – that the cost of inaction in the face of Moscow’s aggression was unacceptable.
“The most important question for us now is not what we should say to Russia,” Power said. “The most important question is what we should do to make Russia listen.”
At the White House press conference later, Obama was asked whether the administration would now take steps against Russia beyond further sanctions.
“I think that the sanctions that we’ve already applied have been effective,” he said, adding that he expected additional measures in consultation with the Europeans. “I think there are ways for us to deepen or expand the scope of some of that work.”
A reporter noted Russia’s continued actions in Ukraine and asked, “At what point do sanctions no longer work? Would you envisage the possibility of a necessity of military action to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine?”
“We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem. What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia,” Obama said.
At the end of the president’s reply, a reporter then asked, “How about sending arms to the Ukrainians?” but Obama did not respond. (He started to walk away, then returned to take another question, on immigration.)
At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was U.S. policy at this time to provide Ukraine with “non-lethal assistance” only.
“Our focus is on non-lethal assistance and obviously using diplomatic tools, but we haven’t ruled out other options either,” she said.
“Why shouldn’t the Russians conclude that since you’re clearly not willing to do anything militarily to try to stop this – and you’re not even willing to arm with lethal assistance the Ukrainians – that they can essentially continue to destabilize eastern Ukraine with impunity, just as they invaded and subsequently annexed Crimea and that there is no significant short, medium, or long-term effect on them?” a reporter asked.
Psaki said punitive measures put in place so far have had an effect – “not just economic impacts at times, but impacts in behavior at times as well.”
“We’re continuing to work at this. This will be a discussion with the international community,” she said. “But it hasn’t changed the fact that our preference and our priority and our focus is on non-lethal assistance and is on a diplomatic path forward.”
The assistance given to Ukraine so far includes 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), provided last March, as well as helmets, radios, water purification units, body armor and night vision goggles.
Ukraine accuses Russia of invading its territory with tanks, artillery and troops.