WASHINGTON — For President Obama, the situation in Ukraine is on the cusp of becoming one of the most complicated foreign policy crises of his administration.
In the three days since Obama warned Vladimir Putin that "there will be costs" for military intervention in Ukraine, the Russian president has not only ignored Obama's threat but has doubled down on his Ukraine gambit.
After Obama called Putin on Saturday to express his "deep concern" that Russia had violated Ukraine sovereignty, Putin went to the Russian parliament and won unanimous support to deploy troops inside Ukraine. By the Obama administration's estimate, there are now about 6,000 Russian troops in Crimea, and reinforcements continue to fly in.
On Monday, there were conflicting reports that the Russian navy issued an ultimatum to Ukraine's military in Crimea to surrender, even as Obama reiterated that his administration is examining a series of economic and diplomatic penalties against Russia if it continues with its occupation in Crimea.
"What cannot be done is for Russia, with impunity, to put its soldiers on the ground and violate basic principles around the world," said Obama, before a meeting in the Oval Office on Monday with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yet, Obama and European allies' points of leverage are limited, according to analysts. And while Obama administration officials see the need for a strong response, they are also cognizant that they need Putin on a variety of high-priority issues on the president's foreign-policy agenda.
"If the administration wants to get a deal done on Iran, they need Russian cooperation," said Angela Stent, director of the Center of Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. "On Syria, we disagree with the Russians on the civil war part of it, but certainly we have worked with them on the chemical weapons disarmament. On Afghanistan, post-2014 and generally in the Middle East, there are countervailing pressures there."
Already, lawmakers have pressed Obama to push Russia out of the Group of Eight, cancel other bilateral engagements with Moscow and limit trade agreements.
But Russia's trade with the United States is a relatively insignificant part of the Russian economy. Western Europe has more robust economic ties with Russia but is already showing reluctance over strong economic action against Russia.
The BBC reported Monday that Downing Street concludes "the U.K. should not support for now trade sanctions or close" London's financial center to Russians. The Germans have also balked at cutting off Russian oil and natural gas trade with the European Union, which gets roughly 25% of its natural gas from Russia.
The U.S. could press for economic sanctions and visa bans against Russian executives with ties to the Kremlin, but analysts say such action is unlikely to change Putin's behavior.
Another pressure point is revisiting a U.S. proposal to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The project, intended to protect Europe from missile threat from Iran, is opposed by Moscow and was put on the back burner by Obama after he came into office and tried to reset frosty U.S-Russian relations.
"None of those (options) are, I think, sufficiently potent to get Putin out," said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He added, "The ability of the United States acting in coordination with its allies … has limited reach, limited leverage in reversing what has happened in the last few days."
Obama has faced a wave of criticism from Republicans, who say the Russian military action is the outgrowth of Obama being too accommodating of Putin. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pointedly told CNN on Sunday that Obama has been "weak and indecisive."
Obama suggested Monday that the GOP's energy would better spent quickly passing a much-needed aid package to help stabilize Ukraine's struggling economy.
"I've heard a lot of talk from Congress about what should be done, what they want to do," Obama said. "One thing they can do right away is to work with the administration to help provide a package of assistance to the Ukrainians, to the people and that government."