By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- U.S. MOVES TO KICK RUSSIA OUT OF G8: After Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, the G8 might become the G7 again. Russia is set to host the next summit of the Group of Eight — the (mostly) western economic powers of the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan and Russia — in Sochi in June, and the U.S. has broken off its participation in planning meetings in protest of Russian forces’ presence in Crimea, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD reports. After a U.S.-led push, all members but Russia have announced they will boycott planning meetings for the Sochi summit. The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US on Sunday all pledged “to suspend our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June, until the environment comes back where the G-8 is able to have meaningful discussion.” They also “condemn[ed] the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
- TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama is expected to host Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House this afternoon, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. “The President looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, developments in Iran, and other regional priorities, according to the White House. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, and our close consultations on a range of security issues.” Also today, the Vice President meets privately with Prime Minister Lurie Leanca of Moldova at the White House.
- ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Just because “all options are on the table” doesn’t mean there are any good options. Part of what makes this standoff with Russia different from those that have confronted President Obama in the past is that nobody seems to have a better idea in Congress. (“Be tougher” doesn’t count as strategy.) From Snowden to Syria and even during Sochi, Vladimir Putin has been less the bored kid in the corner than the student who smiles at the teacher but refuses to go to detention. The crisis in Ukraine tests the US government in a most confounding way, because it comes in a sphere where American influence is at its nadir. (Does anyone think economic sanctions, or even turning the G-8 back to the G-7, will suddenly convince Putin to do an about-face?) Responses are already turning to playing for the next call, to slow though not stop Putin’s march.
KERRY: ‘ALL OPTIONS ON THE TABLE’ TO HOLD RUSSIA ACCOUNTABLE IN UKRAINE. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “all options are on the table” when it comes to steps the U.S. can take to hold Russia accountable for its military movements in Ukraine, including economic sanctions and potentially military action. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos yesterday on “This Week,” Kerry said Russian troops moving into the Ukrainian region of Crimea was “a military act of aggression” and that the U.S. will move swiftly to impose penalties if Russian President Vladimir Putin does not withdraw his troops. While military force is among the options President Barack Obama is considering, Kerry said the U.S. and its allies hope they can avoid such action. “The hope of the U.S. and everybody in the world is not to see this escalate into a military confrontation,” he said. More likely in the near term are economic sanctions on businesses and individuals – Kerry told Stephanopoulos that the U.S. is “absolutely” willing to impose such penalties, and that Congress should get to work on those sanctions along with a package of aid for Ukraine. http://abcn.ws/1hC0zbK
NOTED: KERRY TO KIEV. “In Kyiv on March 4, Secretary Kerry will meet with senior representatives of Ukraine’s new government, leaders of the Rada, and members of civil society,” according to the State Department. “The Secretary will reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference or provocation.”
OBAMA WARNS PUTIN OF RUSSIA’S ‘CLEAR VIOLATION.’ President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for 90 minutes on Saturday, calling on Russia to withdraw its forces, ABC’s CHRIS GOOD notes. Obama “expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” according to a White House readout, warning that Russia’s activity “would negatively impact Russia’s standing in the international community” and “will lead to greater political and economic isolation,” according to the White House’s paraphrasing. The U.S. will also stop participating in preparatory meetings for the G8 summit set to be held in Sochi June 4-5, the White House said. At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power condemned Russia’s reported advances into Ukraine, calling them “an act of aggression.” http://abcn.ws/1bW27Ol
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
WHY BEN AFFLECK IS LENDING HIS STAR POWER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE CONGO. Ben Affleck certainly isn’t the first celebrity to advocate for a good cause, but the Hollywood actor and director has managed to maintain an uncommon level of credibility and expertise on the two-decades-long conflict in the Congo that has resulted in the deaths of more than 5 million people. Affleck, who has founded an advocacy and development organization for Eastern Congo and has traveled to the region extensively, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and sat down with “On the Radar’s” MARTHA RADDATZ to make his case for why the United States should invest greater resources to solving the conflict. http://yhoo.it/1n0PRgZ
@GrahamBlog: Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine.
@OKnox: People who mocked Jared Leto for commenting on Venezuela/Ukraine shld become better acquainted w/how Americans get their news.