March 2, 2014
President Obama can quickly take five concrete steps to blunt Russia’s military seizure of control in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said in an Atlantic Council conference call today with journalists and Council members.

“President Obama faces the most difficult international crisis of his presidency," Burns said, and the US has no military option available to reverse Russia’s deployment of troops in the Crimean Peninsula.  Rather, the United States should open a longer-term diplomatic strategy to outmaneuver Russian President Vladimir Putin and raise the costs to him of his actions, said Burns, a director of the Atlantic Council.  The first steps should include these:

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The United States should make clear that in his military assault on Ukraine, Putin has struck at a vital US interest – a free and stable Europe, Burns said. In doing so, the Obama administration “shouldn’t be cowed” by worries about Russia’s response on other issues, such as Syria and Iran, where Russia could play a more obstructive role. Russia will not reverse its stance in support of the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, and has its own interests in averting the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

A key step from a US ally right now should come from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Burns said. She “has not taken center stage” in confronting Putin over his move in Crimea, and “I think it’s incumbent on her to do so.”