President Obama is expected to call on U.S. allies to suspend Russia from the Group of Eight nations, White House officials hinted Monday, looking to ramp up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his actions in Ukraine.
“Clearly we believe there is no reason for the G-7 countries to engage with Russia going forward based on its behavior,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Monday, according to multiple media reports.
Rhodes and other senior administration officials did not directly confirm that Obama would press for suspending Russia from the G-8, but that action is widely expected in the coming hours.
Obama later Monday in the Netherlands will hold talks with the G-7 nations -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan -- about how to stop Putin from taking a more active role in Ukraine after the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, also in the Netherlands for a summit on controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, Russia was excluded from the discussions on Ukraine.
Obama is hoping that his European allies will coalesce around stiffer sanctions to keep Putin from moving forces further into southeast Ukraine. However, any serious economic penalties on the Kremlin would have severe consequences for Europe, a major Russian trading partner.
“Europe and America are united in our support of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people,” Obama said Monday during his first stop on a weeklong tour. “We are united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far.”