While the United States can carry out airstrikes in Iraq to protect Americans and minorities – Kurds and Yazidis – in Iraq, it has refused to use militarily force to intervene in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
However, this certainly doesn’t mean that the U.S. is afraid of a regional power or anything – it’s just trying to play it safe.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin praises the successes of rebel army of “Novorossiya,” meaning New Russia, President Barack Obama has ruled out the possibility that he will take military action to address growing violence in Ukraine.
"We agree, if there was ever any doubt, that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine."
"The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia,” Obama said, calling off armed action.
“We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem,” he said.
“What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia. But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.”
While it may seem that Obama appears rather apprehensive here, it isn’t the case. It’s actually a wise approach.
America has already engaged itself militarily in the Middle East, yet again, by carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) militants to protect American personnel and local minorities in Iraq.
In addition, after the brutal death of American journalist James Foley, the urgency to act against ISIS increased manifold.
A military action in Russia on one hand, with ISIS on the other, would only spell more trouble because the U.S. has a reputation of getting its hands dirty in conflicts.
A NATO intervention is also not going to be a wise choice primarily because Ukraine’s not a member state and secondly, it could mean a full-fledged war.
“NATO could intervene militarily in a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but a hot war between the United States and Russia would create the highest risk of nuclear war in human history. So it's unlikely,” wrote Zack Beauchamp for Vox in April.
While NATO can deploy forces around Russia, it certainly does not have a choice for fighting on Ukraine’s behalf against Putin’s armed forces.
So what should be the U.S. plan of action now that a direct U.S. or NATO military intervention is off the cards?
For now, Obama can deal with Russia by furthering the economic sanctions that were placed after the Crimean peninsula was annexed in March.
Russia is a major gas and oil exporter. Although tougher trade sanctions will have a negative impact on everyone, they would, however, hurt Russia's unstable economy more.