CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Thank you, Mr. President. Russia said today that it is going to ban food and agricultural product imports. That was about $1.3 billion last year. At the same time, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the massing of troops along the border of Ukraine increases the likelihood of an invasion. Are sanctions not working?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we don't know yet whether sanctions are working. Sanctions are working as intended in putting enormous pressure and strain on the Russian economy. That's not my estimation; if you look at the markets and you look at estimates in terms of capital flight, if you look at projections for Russian growth, what youâ€™re seeing is that the economy has ground to a halt. Somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion of capital flight has taken place. Youâ€™re not seeing a lot of investors coming in new to start businesses inside of Russia.
And it has presented the choice to President Putin as to whether he is going to try to resolve the issues in eastern Ukraine through diplomacy and peaceful means, recognizing that Ukraine is a sovereign country, and that it is up ultimately to the Ukrainian people to make decisions about their own lives; or, alternatively, continue on the course that heâ€™s on, in which case heâ€™s going to be hurting his economy, and hurting his own people over the long term.
And in that sense, we are doing exactly what we should be doing. And weâ€™re very pleased that our European allies and partners joined us in this process, as well as a number of countries around the world.
Having said all that, the issue is not resolved yet. You still have fighting in eastern Ukraine. Civilians are still dying. Weâ€™ve already seen some of the consequences of this conflict in the loss of the Malaysian Airlines airliner -- or jetliner.
And the sooner that we can get back on a track in which there are serious discussions taking place to ensure that all Ukrainians are heard, that they can work through the political process, that theyâ€™re represented, that the reforms that have already been offered by the government in Kyiv are implemented to protect Russian speakers, to assure decentralization of power -- the sooner that we move on those, and the sooner that President Putin recognizes that Ukraine is an independent country, itâ€™s only at that point where we can say that the problem has truly been solved. But in the meantime, sanctions are working the way theyâ€™re supposed to.