Kerry: ‘I Don’t Know Anybody Who Says You Ought to Go to War over Crimea’

By Melanie Arter | March 20, 2014 | 12:20 PM EDT

Secretary of State John Kerry (AP Photo)

( – In an interview Wednesday with a local Washington, D.C., affiliate, Secretary of State John Kerry said he doesn’t know anyone who wants the U.S. to go to war with Russia over Crimea, an autonomous republic in the southern region of Ukraine before Russia’s military intervention.

“I don’t know anybody in America who has suggested to go to war over Crimea. Do you want to go to war over Crimea? I don’t know anybody who says you ought to go to war over Crimea, so therefore, your options are economic and diplomatic and isolation,” Kerry said.

As previously reported, despite repeated warnings by the Obama administration not to interfere in Ukraine’s soverneignty, Russia intervened militarily in the region. On March 2, the U.S. acknowledged that Russia was in control of Crimea. On March 16, Crimea voters approved a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

On March 17, the White House announced it had imposed travel bans and froze the assets of seven senior Russian and four Ukrainian officials. Putin was not sanctioned though, because it would be “highly unusual and rather extraordinary” for the U.S. to sanction a head of a state of another country, a senior administration official said.

“Critics argue that Putin is sort of a classic strongman, that he took our measure in Syria, Iran, other places and figured out that the west didn’t have the will to stop him from doing what he was doing,” WUSA-TV anchor Derek McGinty asked the secretary.

“See again, I think that’s a complete mischaracterization. I don’t know anybody in America who has suggested to go to war over Crimea,” Kerry said. He described Crimea as “a big gasoline station.”

“They don’t make a lot of things. There are serious challenges in terms of their long-term economy, their demographics, and so forth,” Kerry said, adding that Russia and its president Vladimir Putin “have a lot of challenges,” and their actions won’t win them any friends.

“The truth is that I think if you look at this isolation and what’s going to happen, they have their own challenges politically even,” said Kerry. “You can’t run around you know knocking around Georgia and taking over Abkhazia and South Ossetia and then threatening Muldova and Transnistria and other places and win friends. That’s an important part of existing on this planet, and I think they’re gonna have some problems.”

McGinty asked what the next step is, to which Kerry responded that there are already sanctions in place.

“Which he ignored,” McGinty said.

“No, they say that. What do you expect? That’s what bullies do, but the fact is when they go home and their cronies and friends lose their apartments and their rich properties, and they can’t move their money, and they can’t travel to places, this bites,” Kerry said. “And over time, there’s a lot more that will come in that will make a difference.”