President Obama Attempts to Calm National Tensions

This morning, President Obama is trying to use U.S. influence to calm two troubled areas of the world.

He announced new sanctions against Russia whose military is once again massing on the border of Ukraine, and he urged a cease-fire in Gaza while defending Israel's right to defend itself.

On Ukraine and Israel alike, President Obama said there are there are no easy solutions, but stressed the need for U.S. leadership.

Russian president Vladimir Putin shows no sign of backing away from Ukraine despite the latest round of sanctions by the United States and European Union.

While ratcheting up the pressure, President Obama sounded more hopeful than tough. "What we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see once again that its action in Ukraine have consequences," said the President.

Those consequences though fall far short of U.S. and European threats to hobble key sectors of the Russian economy.

The latest actions are aimed at influential companies and individuals. "They're very small and not very meaningful, but they're better than what they've been doing for the last several months which is nothing," said Senator John McCain, (R) Arizona.

The President spoke out in defense of Israel in its latest showdown with Hamas militants in Gaza. "There's no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets," said President Obama.

But he promised the United States will keep pressing for peace and a diplomatic solution.

The President is calling for a return to the 2012 cease-fire starting with the deal Hamas rejected two days ago.

Brian Mooar, NBC News.

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