United States, European Leaders 'Finalizing' Russian Sanctions

PHOTO: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a leaders meeting on the future of NATO at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014.
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A new round of U.S. and European sanctions against Russia could be announced as soon as today, with NATO leaders looking to respond more forcefully to the crisis in Ukraine while reassuring allies with a new rapid-response force based in Eastern Europe, White House officials said.

U.S. officials have also hinted that a coalition of countries, though not NATO itself, will unveil new steps to bolster Iraqi security forces and Kurds, but there’s no indication that a stepped-up airstrike campaign in Syria is imminent against the militant Islamist group ISIS.

The leaders are in Wales for day two of the NATO summit. The United States is “finalizing” a new round of sanctions against Russia, in tandem with other European leaders, according to White House officials.

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NATO is also expected to step up its role as a “clearinghouse” for Ukraine assistance, including training Ukrainian forces. NATO allies are expected to offer military, financial and geographic commitments to a new rapid-response force. Those commitments would include 3,500 service personnel from Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said today.

"We must be able to act more swiftly," Cameron said. "I hope that today we can agree a multinational spearhead force deployable anywhere in the world in just two to five days."

The expected announcements come against the backdrop of peace talks involving Russia and Ukraine in Belarus. The talks are aimed at achieving a ceasefire to bring an end to the months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

During the summit, Cameron and President Obama have been seeking support from their counterparts for a campaign to degrade Islamic State militants that have wreaked havoc in Iraq and Syria.

Obama is scheduled to speak at a news conference at 11:30 a.m. ET today after a ceremonial NATO flyover event and meeting with world leaders. He is expected to return to the White House this evening.

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