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International Relations

Obama admits West faces constraints with Russia over Ukraine

US President Barack Obama has conceded that Western sanctions have not had their desired effect on Russia. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron has called on NATO to increase its presence in Eastern Europe.

President Obama told reporters on Friday that the US had done everything it could "to support Ukraine and deter Russia," admitting that "short of going to war, there are some constraints in terms of what we can do."

Obama said that the US had imposed "sufficient costs on Russia," which "objectively speaking," should pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin "to resolve this diplomatically, to get these sanctions lifted."

"But sometimes people don't always act rationally, and they don't always act based on their medium- or long-term interests," the US president said. "That can't deter us though. We've got to just stay at it."

Obama told reporters about his Friday telephone conversation with President Putin, the first time the two leaders had spoken since a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down over Eastern Ukraine and the West imposed economic sanctions against Moscow.

The US president said he expressed concern that the Kremlin had violated a 1987 arms control treaty. Earlier in the week, Russia allegedly test fired a ground-launched cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

According to the Kremlin's account of the conversation, Putin called EU and US sanctions against Russia counterproductive.

Both leaders agreed on the need for an end to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

'Deter Russian agression'

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron has written a letter to NATO's member states, which calls for the alliance to re-evaluate its relationship with Russia. The United Kingdom is hosting NATO's summit in Wales next month.

"We must accept that the co-operation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia's own illegal actions in NATO's neighborhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia," Cameron wrote.

The British prime minister said that NATO had to strengthen its ability to "respond quickly to any threat" and "deter any Russian aggression." He called for the alliance to "agree [on] how we can sustain a robust presence in Eastern Europe."

slk/av (AFP, Reuters)

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