Manila, Philippines (CNN) - Feeling the pull back to pressing matters back in Washington, President Barack Obama found his fourth and final news conference on his trip to Asia dominated by events far removed from the Pacific theater.
At a joint news conference with Philippines President Benigo "Noynoy" Aquino, the President announced the U.S. will impose a new round of sanctions against Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
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Obama described the latest economic penalties against Russian "individuals and companies," including the halting of some high tech defense exports. The President warned broader sectoral sanctions against banking and defense industries in Moscow could come next.
It's not about Putin
Asked whether the U.S. is taking a harder look at targeting Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose wealth is reported to make him one of the world's richest leaders, Obama said the new sanctions are aimed at forcing Moscow to help deescalate tensions in Ukraine.
'The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin personally. The goal is to change his calculus," Obama said.
But the President said candidly he had his own doubts whether the renewed economic pressure would be effective. "We don't know yet if it will work," Obama said.
Pledge to help storm victims
The President offered immediate federal support to communities struck by a deadly wave of tornados and strong storms in the South and Midwest Sunday that have left at least 18 people dead, according to the latest reports from local authorities to CNN.
"Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes," Obama said, pledging assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to first responders in storm ravaged areas.
Obama pushes back on foreign policy critics
Pressed again about his second term foreign policy strategy that has opted for diplomacy first in response to an array of global crises, Obama said his more hawkish critics "haven't really learned the lessons of the last decade."
Obama again defended his decision against carrying out airstrikes in Syria and he rejected suggestions to provide direct military aid to Ukraine
"Do people actually think that somehow that sending some additional arms to Ukraine will deter the Russian army," the President asked.
Obama administration to investigate veterans deaths
Asked about the approximately 40 veterans who died waiting for care in the Phoenix VA health system, a story first reported by CNN, the President said he immediately launched an investigation as soon as he learned of the matter.
"We take the allegations very seriously," Obama said, noting a separate inspector general report is also under way.
Asia trip not about China
During this final stop in his seven day Asia trip, the President touted a new defense agreement with the Philippines that will allow the U.S. military to utilize bases in the archipelago over the next ten years.
But Obama denied the move is aimed at halting China's rapid rise in the Asia Pacific region.
"Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China," Obama said. "It's inevitable that China will be a dominant power in this region," he added.