TIME Ukraine

White House: Putin Faces a ‘Hard Choice’

Facing harder sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin "can either continue to do what he's doing in Ukraine or pull back, engage in a diplomatic process, and take some of that pressure off," White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken hit the airwaves on Sunday morning as part of a move to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin as Ukraine nears a breaking point.

“He has to make a very hard choice,” Blinken said on CBS. “He can either continue to do what he’s doing in Ukraine or pull back, engage in a diplomatic process, and take some of that pressure off.”

The E.U. and the U.S. have agreed to ratchet up sanctions on Russia in response to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where Western allies have said the Kremlin is fueling unrest and amassing troops at the border. The sanctions have already begun to hit Russia’s economy, perhaps setting him up for domestic challenges in the future.

“He had a compact with his people, and the compact is this: ‘I’ll deliver economic growth for you if you remain politically compliant.’ Right now he’s not delivering growth,” Blinken said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed the West’s stance toward Russia, saying on Sunday on NBC, “We’re absolutely right to take a strong approach.”

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