President Obama told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that the USA is considering economic and diplomatic options that will isolate Russia.
Mr Obama also urged Congress to work on an aid package to Ukraine and make it the “first order of business.”
“The strong condemnation that Russian has received around the world indicates the degree to which Russia is on the wrong side of history,” he said during a meeting with the Israeli prime minister in the Oval Office.
“There are two paths that Russia can take at this point. Actions on the ground in Crimea are deeply troubling but what is also true is that over time, this will be a costly proposition for Russia. Now is the time to consider whether they can further their interests with diplomacy as opposed to force.”
Obama’s remarks came a few hours after some officials said it was “highly likely” that America would impose sanctions against Russia unless Moscow changes course and withdraws its troops from Ukraine.
According to insiders familiar with the matter, the White House was reviewing its portfolio of trade and co-operation with Kremlin, preparing a raft of possible US sanctions targeting senior government and military officials implicated in the invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula.
“At this point we’re not just considering sanctions, given the action Russia is taking,” said Jen Psaki, the State Department’s press secretary. “It is likely that we will put those in place and we are preparing that right now.”
As The Guardian claims, officials from the US Treasury and State Department “were understood to be drafting possible visa travel bans and asset freezes that would be presented to US president Barack Obama in the coming hours.”
“We are likely moving down that path as things proceed,” Psaki said. “We are far more forward on this than we were even yesterday.”
Now the U.S. president is expected to use all his powers to bypass Congress to quickly target senior Russian officials, as doubts emerged over the ability of the Washington to rally support from Europe.
“The most important thing is for us – the United States – to make sure that we don’t go off without the European community,” the majority leader in the Senate, Democrat Harry Reid, told Politico.
“We have to work with them. Their interests are really paramount if we are going to do sanctions of some kind. We have to have them on board with us.”
The secretary of state, John Kerry, was scheduled to arrive in Kiev as a gesture of support for Ukraine’s new government. Kerry was faced with persuading European allies dependent on their economic relationship with Moscow to go further than introducing travel restrictions.