WH: Obama's 'Leadership -- On the Phone Relentlessly' -- Is Working

By Susan Jones | July 23, 2014 | 9:01 AM EDT

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - A top White House adviser says President Obama's "leadership -- on the phone relentlessly with European leaders" -- is building pressure on Russia to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken made that comment on Wednesday morning, shortly after news broke that Russian-backed fighters, far from de-escalating, had just shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets over eastern Ukraine.

"Well, we've made very clear to the Russians that they need to de-escalate this crisis," Blinken told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And they need to make it very clear to the separatists that they have to cease and desist. They (Russians) have to stop the flow of weapons to the separatists. They have to get them to adhere to a ceasefire...and again, the pressure that we're seeing exerted on Russia, the isolation that we're seeing grow day by day...I think is going to have an impact in moving them in that direction."

Blinken said Obama's announcement of tougher sanctions on Russia is having an effect, and he hailed Obama's leadership in getting European nations to go along with those sanctions -- even though European nations have not yet followed Obama's lead.

"What we've seen time and again, is with the president's leadership -- on the phone relentlessly with European leaders over the last months, and things that aren't seen necessarily by the public -- he has brought them along, moved them along. We've taken action together in building up this pressure on Russia, and the pressure is growing and growing and growing."

Persuading 28 EU countries is a challenge, Blinken said. "We've seen tremendous leadership by the German Chancellor Merkel, by the Prime Minister Cameron of the U.K. and others, but it takes a lot of work, and the president has been leading that effort -- on the phone, as I said, with all of them repeatedly.

"And what they (European leaders) did yesterday was make it clear that they are prepared to take action in these key sectors of the Russian economy. And let's be very clear, actions have a real impact, but just the threat and the uncertainty that the possibility of future actions has, creates a real impact on the economy as well."

EU leaders, at Britain's urging, on Tuesday discussed a Russian arms embargo, but they agreed only to impose more asset freezes on individuals, leaving economic relations untouched, the Associated Press reported.

And France announced Tuesday that it would proceed with the sale of a warship to Russia.

Last week, on the day before Russian-backed fighters shot down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine, the White House announced additional sanctions on Russia, affecting the banking, energy, and defense sectors as well as some senior Russian officials.