West unleashes angry torrent against Russia; looks for ways to stop Putin from expanding reach

The Associated Press

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk look at each others during a press conference after talks in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Biden arrived in Warsaw for consultations with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski, a few hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a draft bill for the annexation of Crimea, one of a flurry of steps to formally take over the Black Sea peninsula. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

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Putin, who is anxious to keep Ukraine from tacking toward the West, offered a reassurance that he had no intention of invading other regions of Ukraine that seemed to carry an undercurrent of a warning with it.

Although Ukraine has never been offered full membership, NATO agreed at a summit meeting in 2008 to keep its door open to Ukraine and to cooperate on a range of defense issues. Particularly in light of the current pressures on Ukraine from Russia, it seems highly unlikely that leaders of NATO countries would close the door to membership for Ukraine.

The Obama administration's approach since the beginning has been to dissuade Ukraine from seeing its future as a discrete choice between East and West.

The administration has made it clear to Russia that it wants to work with Ukrainian officials to enact political reforms that would ease Moscow's concerns about the treatment of Russians in Ukraine. Power-sharing, greater regional autonomy, including for Crimea, have been and still are on the table.

In a town hall Tuesday with university students, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described any further Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine as "a hard line" and "egregious" but declined to give specifics on how the U.S. would respond. "That would be a major breach and I hope we don't get there," he said.

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Benac reported from Washington.

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Associated Press writers Lara Jakes, Donna Cassata, Matthew Lee and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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