WASHINGTON - If Vladimir Putin follows traditional Russian military doctrine, he may seek to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and not move beyond annexing Crimea, Britain's defense chief said on Wednesday, adding the West should not militarize the standoff.
British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said it was important to reduce tensions with the Russian leader over the Crimea by avoiding an aggressive military response from NATO allies and instead using diplomatic and economic levers of influence.
"Everything I see about the way Putin is playing this and the nationalist sentiments that he's appealing to suggests to me that a more aggressive military response from the West would simply be playing into his hands," Hammond told a small group of reporters at the British Embassy in Washington.
Hammond was visiting the capital for previously scheduled talks with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, but the crisis prompted by Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula earlier this month dominated their conversations.
Putin's move was followed by a quick referendum and the formal annexation of the region by Russia.