An elderly woman wrapped with an European Union flag attends a pro-Ukraine rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk on April 15, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF)
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President Barack Obama is once again faced with the complicated reality of following through on his tough warnings against overseas provocations as the White House asserts that Russia is stoking instability in eastern Ukraine.Obama has vowed repeatedly to enact biting sanctions against Russia's vital economic sectors if the Kremlin tries to replicate its actions in Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine, elsewhere in the former Soviet republic. For Obama, the U.S. response to the chaos in Ukraine has become more than a test of his ability to stop Russia's advances.While there has been no talk of "red lines" when dealing with Putin, Obama has said repeatedly that the Kremlin's advances into eastern Ukraine would be a "serious escalation" of the conflict that would warrant broad international sanctions on the Russian economy. As with the situation in Syria, Obama faces few good options as he watches Russia destabilize Ukraine, the former Soviet republic that has sought greater ties with Europe.
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