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March 19, 2014

Pushing back on Russia, Biden vows more sanctions

(Continued)

Meanwhile, major Western powers sought fresh ways to show that Russia would incur real costs unless it changes course.

The White House announced that President Barack Obama was inviting the leaders of the G-7 group of nations to a meeting in Europe next week to discuss further action. The group normally meets under the banner of the G-8, including Russia, but has suspended preparations for upcoming G-8 talks.

And in London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. was suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis.

“It’s a simple fact that Russia’s political and economic isolation will only increase if it continues down this dark path,” Biden said, adding that virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea on Sunday that cleared the way for Russia to absorb it.

For his part, Putin seemed to shrug off the tough talk from the West, describing Russia’s move to add Crimea to its map as correcting past injustices. In an emotional, live speech from the Kremlin, he said that “in people’s hearts and minds, Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia.”

Russia’s move in clear defiance of its neighbors and the U.S. ups the pressure on Biden to convince its NATO allies that the U.S. won’t succumb to Russia’s aggressive moves.

In sessions Tuesday in the Polish capital and later in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, Biden was to discuss the crisis with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia — three Baltic nations that are deeply concerned about what Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula might portend for the region.

All four countries share borders with Russia, while Poland also borders Ukraine. Poland broke away from Moscow’s domination in 1989 and was a vocal advocate for Ukraine forging closer ties with the E.U. — a dispute at the heart of Ukraine’s political crisis.

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