Analysis: Limited US, European options in Ukraine

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A man in unmarked uniform looks from atop of a military vehicle while standing guard as troops taking control the the Coast Guard offices in Balaklava, outskirts of Sevastopol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 1, 2014. An emblem on one of the vehicles and their number plates identify them as belonging to the Russian military. Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of sending new troops into Crimea, a strategic Russia-speaking region that hosts a major Russian navy base. The Kremlin hasn’t responded to the accusations, but Russian lawmakers urged Putin to act to protect Russians in Crimea. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

A man in unmarked uniform looks from atop of a military vehicle while standing guard as troops taking control the the Coast Guard offices in Balaklava, outskirts of Sevastopol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 1, 2014. An emblem on one of the vehicles and their number plates identify them as belonging to the Russian military. Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of sending new troops into Crimea, a strategic Russia-speaking region that hosts a major Russian navy base. The Kremlin hasn’t responded to the accusations, but Russian lawmakers urged Putin to act to protect Russians in Crimea. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

President Barack Obama speaks about Ukraine in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Obama’s statement comes as his administration is expressing growing concern over Russian intentions in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a blunt warning Friday to Moscow against military moves in the country’s southern Crimea region that could further inflame tensions. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Protesters, one them holding an Ukraine flag, demonstrate against the military intervention of Russia in Crimea as they gather in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest, Ukraine, Saturday, March 1, 2014. Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine and also recommended Saturday that Moscow’s ambassador be recalled from Washington over comments made by President Barack Obama. The unanimous vote in an emergency session formalized what Ukrainian officials described as an invasion of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea. With pro-Russian protests breaking out in other parts of Ukraine, Moscow now could send its military elsewhere in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Ukrainian police officers attend a rally to pay their respects for people killed during the latest clashes at the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, March 1, 2014. Russia’s parliament granted President Vladimir Putin permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine and also recommended Saturday that Moscow’s ambassador be recalled from Washington over comments made by President Barack Obama. The unanimous vote in an emergency session formalized what Ukrainian officials described as an invasion of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea. With pro-Russian protests breaking out in other parts of Ukraine, Moscow now could send its military elsewhere in Ukraine.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite blunt warnings about costs and consequences, President Barack Obama and European leaders have limited options for retaliating against Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, the former Soviet republic now at the center of an emerging conflict between East and West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far dismissed the few specific threats from the United States, which include scrapping plans for Obama to attend an international summit in Russia this summer and cutting off trade talks sought by Moscow. Because Ukraine does not have full-member status in NATO, the U.S. and Europe have no obligation to come to its defense. And broader international action through the United Nations seems all but impossible, given Russia’s veto power as a member of the Security Council.

“There have been strong words from the U.S. and other counties and NATO,” said Keir Giles, a Russian military analyst at the Chatham House think tank in London. “But these are empty threats. There is really not a great deal that can be done to influence the situation.”

As if to underscore that point, Putin on Saturday requested and was granted permission to use Russia’s military not just in the pro-Russian region of Crimea, but also throughout Ukraine. Putin’s request came one day after Obama warned that any violation of Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing.”

Saturday’s developments follow three months of political upheaval in Ukraine following President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of historical ties with Moscow. Yanukovych fled Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, last week and now is in Russia.

Putin’s moves are sure to deepen tensions in his already troubled relationship with Obama, who has struggled to find a formula for getting the Russian leader to change his calculus on a myriad of issues.

American efforts to punish Russia on Ukraine and other matters have been complicated by the White House’s need for Russian cooperation on stopping Syria’s civil war, negotiating a nuclear accord with Iran, and transporting American troops and equipment out of Afghanistan through Russian supply routes.

“We face a difficult choice of punishing Russia by effectively punishing ourselves,” said Andrew Kuchins, the director of the Russia program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Obama has tried to use his travel plans to Russia as a bargaining chip before, in the hopes that Putin might bend under the threat of a diplomatic embarrassment. Last summer, the White House dangled the prospect of canceling a bilateral summit between Obama and Putin as it pressed Russia to return National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to the United States.

When Russia instead granted Snowden temporary asylum, Obama canceled his one-on-one meeting with Putin. Obama did attend an international meeting in St. Petersburg.

U.S. officials say they are in discussions now with European officials about Obama and other leaders possibly skipping the Group of Eight economic summit scheduled for June in Sochi, the site of the just-concluded Winter Olympics. Obama’s top advisers gathered at the White House Saturday

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