The Obama administration says it is ready to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, if Moscow fails to take action to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine. The White House, however, says it has delayed implementation as it presses for unified support from European and U.S. manufacturers for the measures.
“What it comes down to is we're balancing a lot of important national imperatives and the president is mindful that these policies are most effective when we are acting in close coordination with our allies as these sanctions or potential sanctions are implemented," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest speaking Wednesday.
He said the new sanctions would target Russia's banking, energy and defense sectors, if Moscow fails to stem the cross-border flow of military hardware and fighters into Ukraine.
In Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told NATO foreign ministers that Russian President Vladimir Putin must call on pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine to disarm. He also called on the Russian leader to show his full "commitment to the peace process and to the stability of Ukraine."
Some opposition to sanctions
The threat of new sanctions comes as American business leaders campaign against unilateral penalties, claiming they will hurt U.S. interests and cost American jobs.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers plan to stress the perceived threat to U.S. interests with a newspaper advertising campaign.
European leaders also have voiced concern that new sanctions could otherwise hurt Europe's expanding economic ties with Moscow. The European Union and the United States imposed earlier sanctions against specific Russian individuals and companies after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March.
In related developments, President Putin has begun phone negotiations with the leaders of Ukraine, Germany and France, aimed at monitoring and extending a week-long cease-fire announced Friday by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Poroshenko's office said the Ukrainian leader urged Putin "to take concrete steps to stop the supply of weapons and equipment to militants." It also said the four leaders agreed to speak again Thursday.
VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez contributed to this report.