Obama to Do What Rush Limbaugh Said He Wouldn’t in Response to Russian Aggression

UPDATE via the Associated Press:

Seeking to isolate Russia, President Barack Obama and Western and Asian allies moved to indefinitely cut Moscow out of a major international coalition on Monday, including canceling an economic summit President Vladimir Putin planned to host this summer.

The moves came amid a flurry of diplomatic jockeying as the U.S. and Europe grappled for ways to punish Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and to prevent Moscow from pressing further into Ukraine. The world powers warned that they were prepared to “intensify actions” against Russia, including ordering more severe economic sanctions, if the Kremlin escalates its incursion into Ukraine.

Separately in the Hague, in an unexpected development, Russia’s foreign minister met with his Ukrainian counterpart, the highest level of contact between the two nations since Russia moved forces into Crimea nearly a month ago.

Obama huddled with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan for an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven. In a joint statement after the evening meeting, the leaders said they were suspending their participation with Russia in the Group of Eight major industrial nations until Moscow “changes course.”

The G-7 leaders instead plan to meet this summer in Brussels, symbolically putting the meeting in the headquarters city of the European Union and NATO, two organizations seeking to bolster ties with Ukraine.

“Today, we reaffirm that Russia’s actions will have significant consequences,” the leaders’ statement said. “This clear violation of international law is a serious challenge to the rule of law around the world and should be a concern for all nations.”

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh last week said President Barack Obama should push for harsher punishments for Russia over its aggression in Ukraine. He argued Obama and his allies should kick Russia out of the G-8 and International Monetary Fund, but predicted the president wouldn’t push for such action.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported Obama plans to urge world leaders to indefinitely suspend Russia from the G-8. It’s unlikely the White House is taking foreign policy advice from the “king of talk radio,” but it appears that Limbaugh may have spoken too soon.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama speaks on the phone in the Oval Office with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine, March 1, 2014. (Official White House photo/Pete Souza)

More from the Washington Post:

As long as Russia is flagrantly violating international law and the order that major powers have constructed since the end of the Cold War, “there is no reason to engage with Russia,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “What Russia has done has been a violation of that entire international order built up over many decades.”

The meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit here is the first of several sessions that Obama plans to attend in the coming days with European allies and others over how to persuade Putin, once interested in further integrating Russia into the global economy, to pull forces back from eastern Ukraine and begin a dialogue with the Kiev government to resolve the crisis in Crimea.

Putin, though, has shown little interest in doing so. On Monday, Ukrainian leaders ordered their forces to leave Crimea under threat from Russian troops.

On his radio show last week, Limbaugh said kicking Russia out of the G-8 and IMF is a “very easy way to punish Putin in a way that would really matter” and it “would mean it would cost Russia more to do business with the rest of the world. They could do that.”

While a suspension isn’t “kicking” Russia out indefinitely, it would certainly send a clearer message than sanctioning 11 individuals.